MUSIC: Philip Glass; RFH, London
Monday 19 May 1997
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.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Wireless 2015: Nicki Minaj 2 hours late to main stage due to 'travel issues'
Chronixx interview: Reggae sensation on taking the opening spot at Glastonbury and calling Barack Obama a 'waste man'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director Jack Bender hints showrunners 'communicate closely' with George RR Martin
Amy: Mark Ronson praises 'respectful' Amy Winehouse film as it scores the highest ever UK opening for a British documentary
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture