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Symphony No. 3

News & Reviews

  • Philip Glass, Robert Wilson's "Einstein on the Beach" Makes West Coast Debut with Three Sold-Out Berkeley Performances

    Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's groundbreaking opera Einstein on the Beach receives its West Coast premiere, nearly four decades after it was first performed, with three sold-out performances at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall this weekend. PBS Newshour marked the occasion with a look at this groundbreaking work and the career of its composer, which you can watch here. This weekend's performances of Einstein on the Beach are part of a major international tour that heads next to Mexico City, Amsterdam, and Hong Kong.

  • Philip Glass, Robert Wilson's "Einstein on the Beach" Returns to NYC with Eight Performances at BAM

    Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, widely credited as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century, launched its creators to international success when it was first produced in Avignon, France, in 1976. Now, 20 years since its last production, as part of an international tour, Einstein on the Beach returns to New York with eight performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), tonight through September 23.

About this Album

Philip Glass, called "the best-known composer of art music in America, if not the world” by the Los Angeles Times, has been largely recognized for his pioneering work in the genres of film music and opera. An ever-important part of his compositional output, however, is spent on symphonic works. This album covers the composer’s work in both the operatic and symphonic mediums, beginning with the world premiere recording of his Symphony No. 3.

Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 3 received its premiere performance by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in 1995, with the renowned conductor Dennis Russell Davies at the podium. The piece was written earlier that year at the request of Davies, who asked for a work that would showcase all of the orchestra’s string players individually. It is constructed in a compact four-movement form, the structure of a true symphony, although Glass’s Symphony No. 3 is more aptly described as a symphony for strings.

The composer, in his program notes on the work, describes the opening movement of the work as a quiet, moderately paced prelude to movements two and three, the main body of the symphony. The second movement mode of fast-moving compound meters explores the textures from unison to multi-harmonic writing for the whole ensemble, while the third movement is in the form of a chaconne, a repeated harmony sequence. The fourth and final movement, a short finale, quickly refers back to the compound meters introduced in the second movement, followed by a new closing theme which brings the symphony to its to conclusion.

Symphony No. 3 was recorded by Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in 1996, and it has since been performed by a number of chamber orchestras worldwide.

The Voyage (1990), commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera Association in commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World, premiered in New York in 1992. Written as an opera in three acts with a prologue and epilogue, the opera features a story by the composer with a libretto by David Henry Hwang (author of “M. Butterfly”). The Prologue takes place in the present; Act I, 15,000 years ago; Act II in 1942; Act III in 2092; and the Epilogue presents Columbus on his deathbed preparing for his last journey to the stars. The Voyage is intended as an examination of the human urge to discover and its consequences, using Columbus as an example, rather than an attempt to engage in the historical debate that has surrounded Columbus’s arrival in the Western Hemisphere. Included on this recording is the Mechanical Ballet, an excerpt from The Voyage, performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.

The Light is a one-movement work written in 1987 to commemorate the anniversary of the Michelson-Morley experiment at Case Western Reserve University in 1887. Their research, critical to scientists of the time, disproved the notion of an "ether" in the atmosphere, which scientists believed filled all space, and also defined the uniformity of the speed of light in every direction, regardless of the movement of the earth. For Glass, these experiments marked the transition from 19th-century physics to the onset of modern scientific research. He responded with The Light, a work he describes as a kind of portrait, not only to the two men for whom the experiments are named, but also for the historical moment that heralded the beginning of the modern scientific period. It receives its first recording here by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Rounding out this set are excerpts from Glass’s opera the CIVIL warS, a collaboration with Robert Wilson originally intended to be presented in Los Angeles at the Olympic Arts Festival in 1984. Although the funds to stage Wilson’s epic production (which included commissions from four European countries, Japan, and the US) were never raised, a recording of Glass’s contribution “Act V: a tree is best measured when it is down,” was completed. Included on this latest disc are Interludes # 1 and # 2, released previously on a complete recording of the work in 1999.


Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (1-5, 7)
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (6, 8)

Produced by Michael Riesman for Euphorbia Productions, Ltd.
Recorded September 1996 at the Austrian Broadcasting (ORF) Studios, Vienna
Engineer: Anton Reininger
Assistant Engineers: Robert Pavlecka, Stefan Lainer
Mixed at the Looking Glass Studios, New York
Engineer: Martin Czembor
Assistant Engineer: Ryoji Hata

All compositions by Philip Glass

Design by Frank Olinsky
Cover photograph: Desert Form #1 (New Mexico) by William Clift. © 1984 William Clift.

Executive Producer: Kurt Munkacsi

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