MUSIC: Philip Glass; RFH, London

For a style that excels in endless repetitions and a sense of going nowhere, East-coast minimalism has shown remarkable staying power, as Philip Glass, one of its founding fathers, proved last week. Packing London's Festival Hall to capacity on Thursday and Friday, he offered a package tour of his uvre that moved from the symphonic heights and depths of his recent pieces to excerpts from classic scores of his formative period by way of chunks from three major operas. For the first night out, his most considerable exertion was signing autographs after Martyn Brabbins and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields had given the world premiere of his Heroes Symphony. But on Friday evening he was there on stage with the Philip Glass Ensemble, following the lead of music director Michael Riesman, yet clearly the abiding genius of this tightly knit and multi- talented group.

Already much hyped, Heroes is the second of Glass's forays into the world of David Bowie and Brian Eno, intended, in the composer's words, to reintroduce the radical music of their 1977 album to today's listeners, using it as a point of creative departure in the time-honoured way of composers of the past. It was an enjoyable and substantial work, doing what was intended: adding to Bowie's themes a dressing of characteristic Glass. Written for dance, and drawing like all his music on endless supplies of physical energy, it was hardly symphonic in any strict sense of the word but, for many decades now, how many composers have used the word strictly? For his admirers, it moved, and that was clearly enough.

More troubling, at least for some, was its presentation in terms of the classical orchestra. Granted that Brabbins, among our most gifted young conductors, gave the music his all, displaying a fine command of the podium. The missing element was the frisson of fine scoring, an absence made palpable at times by an instrumental sound that seemed akin to straightforward transcription. Off-beat oompah trombones and basses in the first movement gave a certain vulgar swagger suited to the "heroes" theme itself, to which cymbals added a pleasing brashness. But the stern trombones in "Sense of Doubt" invoked only melodrama, which may have been appropriate in the original dance context, but which, in terms of abstract music, was simply an effect without cause. There was rather more point to the hazy arabesques and ostinati of "Abdulmajid", with a sense of magic at the end when a pair of harps took over the gently vibrating accompaniment. The finale, "V2 Schneider", was typical fast Glass (cue for next album?), with the bright scales and Tchaikovskian third-related woodwind chords that mark his recent harmonic manner.

These hallmarks were present on Friday, too, in the scherzo of the Low Symphony, recast for the Glass Ensemble in a way that shed further doubt on the orchestral garb of Heroes, and being sharper, more focused, than that of the orchestral Low as well. The Ensemble played classic scores: "Facades" from Glassworks, Music in Similar Motion and "The Funeral" from Akhnaten to match Act 2 of Satyagraha heard on the previous day. Having recently sat through the three CDs of Einstein on the Beach in its new recordings, this writer was wary of hearing "The Building" from the same opera on Friday, but is happy to report that it needed rather less patience than the original.

Nicholas Williams

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz