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Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No 2, American Four Seasons

review philip glass x1 cong

Pretty much all you need to know is in the title: it’s Philip Glass offering his take on the baroque classic.

The idea for this came from violinist Robert McDuffie, who asked Glass for a concerto reflecting Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The aim was for a work that could be programmed with the Vivaldi and offer back-to-back virtuoso works for a soloist.

The result combines Glass’s bare bones approach with some of the flair of the Vivaldi and it’s all entertaining for the listener. We read some snobby reviewers knocking this for being bland and it’s true it can be little unremarkable in places but the more extrovert sections are very good and even the more standing-still moments are no more than a bit background. Glass said (quoted in the sleeve notes) that he wanted to “.. draw people into a different world without time. And without boredom,” and in that he succeeds.

Glass hasn’t named the “seasons” or put them in any order so the listener can decide. The structure is separate movements for solo violin interspersed between orchestral sections; he apparently composed the intervening movements with the idea that they could be separated from the concerto to make a free-standing work for solo violin. The harpsichord is replaced by a synth.

The Bern Chamber Orchestra under Philippe Bach play, with Piotr Plawner and Gerardo Vila the soloists. Out on Naxos, 8.559865.

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