As Philip Glass's 75th birthday approaches, Dennis Russell Davies—Conductor Laureate—of the American Composers Orchestra pays tribute to "the dean of American symphonic composition." The American Composers Orchestra commemorates the occasion with the US premiere of his newest symphony—a genre that Glass has been focusing on since 1992, when he completed his “Low” Symphony based on the 1977 David Bowie album.
As we hear Philip Glass’s Ninth Symphony on his 75th birthday, I find myself in the delicious position of taking stock of a canon in American symphonic music. Truly a composer of international stature, Philip has done more for the symphonic tradition of music making in the last half of the 20th century than any other composer that comes to mind. With pieces that range from many different source materials, Philip has kept his head down and his ears open as he explored many stylistic realms in his symphonic output. I’ve had the privilege to be on the podium for most of these pieces’ premieres and continue to be awed by the range of compositional exploration, as well as the sheer scope in the varied uses of the symphony orchestra.
Philip and I decided to program Arvo Pärt’s Lamentate on this concert as a nod to the distant, yet recognizable symbiosis between the two composers across the sea. While mining their own realms of tonality and rhythmic languages, both compose using clear and granitic structures. Philip also feels that Arvo’s music is not programmed nearly enough in this country.
The two met at the Bonn Festival in 1987 but have had limited personal or programmatic contact until tonight. To pair with his new symphony, Philip wanted to program a piece from the modern canon that could serve as the concerto part of the classic symphony-evening framework. The Carnegie Hall–Bruckner Orchester Linz commission and the Glass-Pärt pairing mesh nicely in this “hands across the sea” approach to the universal genre of the Classical symphony.
Wishing a very happy birthday to my close friend, Philip Glass—the dean of American symphonic composition—whose work I look forward to presenting for years to come.
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