New York Philharmonic aims to lose its Glass virginity

New York Philharmonic aims to lose its Glass virginity


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2017

The 2017-18 season, announced today, will include the Philip Glass Double Concerto for two pianos. It will be the first time, Mr Glass tweets, that the Philharmonic has played a concert work by New York’s best-known composer.

Philip Glass has just turned 80. Carnegie Hall celebrated the event.

But the New York Phil just walked on by.


  • boringfileclerk says:

    The New York Symphony used to have standards. Are they so low on cash that they would stoop to play anything by this charlatan?

    • Angelo Buonocore says:

      I know, I really wish they’d still with the household names of incredibly relevant music by (insert never heard of composer’s name here)…

    • Bruce says:

      You’re completely right! They should never play anything by a composer you don’t like, no matter how influential or — gasp! — popular his work may be.

      (P.S. Did you mean the New York Philharmonic? The New York Symphony no longer exists.)

      • boringfileclerk says:

        I downgraded it to a symphony after hearing the news. A proper philharmonic would have better musical standards.

      • Max Grimm says:

        “(P.S. Did you mean the New York Philharmonic? The New York Symphony no longer exists.)”

        Technically nobody calls the New York Phil by their official name, which is the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., with acceptable variants apparently being New York Philharmonic (Orchestra) and New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra.

    • Mario Denis says:

      a person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill; a fraud.
      synonyms: quack, sham, fraud, fake, impostor, hoaxer, cheat, deceiver, double-dealer, swindler, fraudster, mountebank;

      quite an insult……state your case please…if you can.

      • boringfileclerk says:

        Have you never heard a single except from Mr. Glass? It tells you everything you need to know.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It’s very simple music, nothing more, nothing less, with a bit of mood painting:

          • M2N2K says:

            Well, Bach’s C-Major Prelude is simple too, but there is a tremendous difference there that is hard to define. To me, most of Glass’ music that I had a misfortune to hear and perform is nothing more than aural equivalent of wallpaper. Some wallpaper is pretty, but is it art? If you want to call a nice piece of wallpaper a work of art, then your definition of art is broader than mine. By the way, in some movies aural wallpaper is exactly what is needed to accompany visual images, which is why in that kind of movies his music may sometimes be quite effective in small doses. But in concert performances it gives me no greater pleasure than wallpaper does in an art museum.

  • Robert says:

    The Philharmonic did do Koyaanisqatsi with orch in 2012 for Glass’ 75th birthday. But indeed this would be the first time they do a concert work.
    And to assuage Biringflieclerk, I wonder how this performance of one piece is offensive to you since the Met opera has done multiple Glass works, as had the NYC ballet.

  • Robert says:

    I remember Leonard Slatkin calling Hlass a fraud, then commissioning and premiering his Seventh Symphony.

    And why take exception to this when Glass’s newest symphony was done at Carnegie (the most famous Hall in America who also commissioned his Sixth and Ninth Symphonies)? Dudamel premiered this Double Concerto that will be done in NY.

    Am I missing something here?

  • Frankster says:

    Glass is always the Number One most performed living composer in the world (but what would the world know??).

    • MWnyc says:

      Actually, for six years running, the most-performed living composer is Arvo Pärt.

      Glass is currently sixth, evidently, behind Williams, Adams, Kurtág, and Reich.

      • Robert says:

        Yes, I wondered about that. I’m skeptical about how they keep track of performances since Glass isn’t published by a major house but rather by his own company.
        In any case I know that according to OperaBase Glass is by triple the most performed composer of opera with 90 official productions in the past 5 years. Seeing over 20 happening this season that’s probably a low estimate with Adams and Heggie both having 28 productions apiece in a second place tie.

        • MWnyc says:

          Oh, no question Philip Glass is the most performed living composer of opera. And he’s churned out so many of them. But Pärt’s concert works get performed a lot, by choirs as well as orchestras.

          I have a couple of t-shirts that are basically swag from old Pärt recordings. Every time I wear one of them, at least one stranger stops me and tells me how much they like his music. Sure doesn’t happen with Bach.

        • John Borstlap says:

          In the 19th century, Meyerbeer was the most successful opera composer, even with the competition of the Italians. He got very rich and was generally considered the great composer of the present and especially of the future. Arias from his operas were published and sung all over Europe, arrangements were very popular, publishers were fighting for his commitment, theatres that wanted a full house returned to the last Meyerbeer success. With every new opera, he could easily afford to give generous banquets to all the critics who were going to write about the performances, who paid him back with enthusiastic reviews. And M’s works were not really bad as occasional revivals show, only quite superficial and put together with crafty effect. But they cannot survive repeated hearing. For that reason, Glass – who read about Meyerbeer early in his career – put the repetitions IN the music so that they don’t need to be repeated and he can write a new opera all the time.

          • Mon Coeur S'Ouvre A Ta Voix says:

            That’s why Wagner hated him so much. And that’s why we need not listen to Meyerbeer nowadays — Wagner borrowed his ideas about orchestration and mise-en-scene. Easier to listen to the “middle man” when he is so widely performed.

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    After reading this and the bile against my friend Michael Hersch, I’d be curious to cull the posts on this site to see the correlation between the Obama-haters and those who hate all composers who are alive.

  • MacroV says:

    I’m not the biggest Philip Glass fan, but he’s been a very influential composer and the Philharmonic taking on his music does seem rather late in coming. Prophet going without honor in his home orchestra, as it were.

  • herrera says:

    Reliable sources report that the NY Philharmonic, citing the lack of rehearsal time, wanted to play something that doesn’t require much practice or thought, so voilà, Philip Glass: just sight read the first bar, and repeat ad nauseam, or until the audience wakes up.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I recall tuning into the local classical station and hearing what seemed like an endless series of string arpeggios. It just seemed to go on forever and I wondered, “When did this station start playing Philip Glass??”

    Then the piece ended and the announcer revealed it was … a concerto movement by Vivaldi. 😀

    • Robert says:

      It’s funny how Carter and Boulez have already been forgotten but Vivaldi and Glass with all their arpeggios survive.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach, Alzheimer, Schubert, Raff, Röntgen, Mahler, Glass and Pärt etc. etc. wrote music based upon the physical properties of the harmonic series (i.e. tonality), which do not garantee good music but offer the possibility of aural communication that goes beyond the acoustical patterns of pure sound. These properties are not influenced by historical developments or personal interpretations because they form part of nature.

  • Mon Coeur S'Ouvre A Ta Voix says:

    “Wallpaper music”? It has a long history, including Satie’s “musique d’ameublement”, “furniture music” — background music played by live musicians; a term coined by the composer in 1917. It may go back to Vivaldi and even before; as a friend once said, “Look at the paintings of the public performance of chamber music during the early Baroque — lap dogs all over the place!” She dubbed it “doggie music”, remarking that where there are dogs, no-one is doing any listening; aural furnishings or wallpaper. OTOH, perhaps Glass’s music occupies the same rhapsodic mystical realm as Perotin’s 4-part organa, or the music of the dervishes. Or of philosophy — “Quid sit musica?” We are fascinated by the question, and don’t really want a reply. So shut up and listen!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Satie’s “Musique d’ameublement” was a practical joke, which did not quite work-out: during the playing, in the foyer of a concert hall in Paris, of the repetitive and completely bland music (something like Glass indeed), people stopped talking and began to pay attention to these strange sounds who were filling a silent space, so that the composer angrily began to walk around, loudly instructing the audience: ‘Talk, converse! Don’t listen, but talk, talk!’

      • MWnyc says:


        Dear old Satie.

        • MWnyc says:

          That reminds me –

          I’m always amused when I encounter a writer (sometimes an arts writer, sometimes a generalist) who writes about Vexations as if the performance directions were serious and not a joke.

          My sense has always been that when a full performance of Vexations is organized, the musicians involved usually get it that Satie was kidding, but think it would be cool to experience what happens when you actually do it.

          • Mon Coeur S'Ouvre A Ta Voix says:

            There was a fully-realized performance of “Vexations” in NYC once. The only person who enthusiastically sat through the whole thing was John Cage, which bears out my point that Satie’s “furnishings music” was philosophical in intent, exemplifying a point of view. Salvatore Martirano’s “Cocktail Music” imitates cocktail party conversation: as it goes along, it disintegrates into inanity. It takes a skilled, experienced listener to discern that intent. People write music for all sorts of reasons.

          • John Borstlap says:

            According to my aunt Augusta who lives in Buenos Aires, the entirely unknown pianist Carlo Perpetua is still playing his repeat of ‘Vexations’ in Rio Turbio (Patagonia, Santa Cruz) for an empty hall, and is tube fed while playing.