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Ludwig Van
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | A Pleasant Surprise From Nico Muhly And Philip Glass

By Norman Lebrecht on July 16, 2021

First_Light_Muhly_and_Glass_-review

First Light: Muhly and Glass (Pentatone)

★★★★☆/★★☆☆☆

🎧  Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

In a decade when no-one is writing new symphonies — depressed, no doubt, by COVID performance constraints — we are having to make do with new violin concertos commissioned by the likes of Patricia Kopatchinskaya and Pekka Kuusisto. The Finnish virtuoso turned for his premiere to Nico Muhly, a New York composer who used to assist Philip Glass, and has augmented this album with works by his minimalist master.

Fearing this might sound samey and predictable, I found myself in for a pleasant surprise; more than one, in fact. Muhly’s concerto, titled Shrink, has repetitive tropes, but they are mitigated by a perpetual momentum that propels us to an eventful conclusion. Shafts of Bergian asperities and dollops of American bluegrass whip up a fine froth, and a swathe of Anglican hymnody lurk somewhere in the crypt below. I have long admired Muhly’s demi-millennial eclecticism, ranging from Tudor polyphony to post-modern atonality, and this concerto marks a fresh stride into space and time. Kuusisto, needless to add, is a razzle-dazzle virtuoso who makes any new piece sound easy.

Muhly_and_Glass-cover

People who review Philip Glass should never throw stones (it only encourages him). Muhly and Kuusisto make short shrift here of a Glass film score from The Screens, and Kuusisto creates a new score for the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra with an expanded setting of Glass’s third string quartet, a filmic meditation on the life and violent death of the Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. It means no disrespect to Glass to say that he’s a better composer than he often sounds. The musical intelligence is razor-sharp. If only he changed the tune now and then.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, subscribe to Slippedisc.com.

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LEBRECHT LISTENS | A Pleasant Surprise From Nico Muhly And Philip Glass

By Norman Lebrecht on July 16, 2021

Finnish virtuoso Pekka Kuusisto turned for his premiere to Nico Muhly, a New York composer who used to assist Philip Glass, and has augmented this album with works by his minimalist master.
Read the full story Comments
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