CD Review: Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass

08.01.11
Brooklyn Rider
Strings Magazine

By Laurence Vittes

This recording on Philip Glass’ own label includes the premiere recording of the Suite from Bent as well as five other Glass quartets. Each is unique in the way it exerts it’s fascination with creating music out of thin air, from what violist Nicholas Cords calls “the cellular dialogues of the first [quartet]” to the nearly operatic scope of the fifth and some of the quasi-Baroque vignettes of Bent.

Brooklyn Rider (Johnny Gandelsman, violin; and Colin Jacobsen, violins; Nicholas Cords, viola; Eric Jacobsen, cello) spent three seasons performing these works on tour, with the exception of String Quartet No. 1 and the Suite from Bent. They gave the concert premiere of the latter at Lincoln Center’s Tully Scope Festival earlier in March. Glass trusted the musicians to develop their own personal style which, violist Cords says, “was primarily guided by our intense rehearsal process and playing them in front of audiences all over the map. What we quickly discovered was that the music had a strong inner life past the notation.”

There is an obvious sameness about the music, at least in the connecting ether in which it exists. It is as if Glass were making the dark matter in his musical universe visible, in an audible way. But there is tremendous variety in how this audible matter shows itself to be alive, and it can create on its own a deeply hallucinogenic effect; paired with the composer’s Schubertian punctuations and sudden eruptions, it can be highly addictive.

It is hard to overestimate the impact Glass has had on both the listening public and musicians in the new century. These pieces are certain to become staples of the repertoire and Brooklyn Rider’s performances will inspire as much as they entertain.