Signal performs Glassworks live (CD Review)

Glassworks: Live at Le Poisson Rouge

Signal
Conducted by Brad Lubman
Featuring Michael Riesman
Orange Mountain Music CD

In some respects, it’s hard to believe that it has taken thirty years for Philip Glass’ Glassworks to be performed live in its¬†entirety in New York City. Then again, this work is demanding, both technically and in terms of endurance. But Signal’s April 2010 performance at Le Poisson Rouge of pianist, keyboardist, and Glass collaborator Michael Riesman’s arrangement of the piece for live forces is worth the wait. It’s also an excellent way to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the ¬†Glassworks studio recording; a release that further cemented its composer’s reputation as an artist capable of crossing over and achieving recognition with mainstream audiences.

And while I treasure my copy of the original recording, in some respects this live rendition reveals aspects of the piece one might have missed the first time around. First of all, it sounds terrific (kudos to Hector Castillo for a finely tuned mix!). Credit must also go to Riesman for his sensitive recreation of the score, which renders it with clarity. Riesman and Signal perform said document with buoyancy, creating vibrant rather than motoric effects with Glass’ myriad ostinati. This is even true (perhaps especially so) in Glassworks’ companion piece on the disc, the inexorably process-driven, yet here lithely grooving, Music in Similar Motion. Conductor Brad Lubman urges the ensemble to shape phrases supply rather than angularly, and this prevents the scores’ repetitions from feeling “repetitive:” instead, they mesmerize.

This is a CD that Glass devotees will adore, but also an excellent one to play first to convert the anti-minimalist naysayers among their friends. Recommended.

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