Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Reviews

Review: Philip Glass, Easy to Mimic but Hard to Match


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The composer Pauchi Sasaki, in a “speaker dress” of her own design, with members of the American Composers Orchestra on Friday.

Credit
Jennifer Taylor

Is Philip Glass the creator of sprawling grand operas like “Einstein on the Beach,” or intimate, gloomy pieces like the Partita for Cello No. 2?

He’s both, of course, but when another composer is invited to create a piece responding to Mr. Glass’s legacy, you can’t have it both ways. During the American Composers Orchestra’s concert on Friday at Zankel Hall, the Peruvian composer and performer Pauchi Sasaki highlighted Mr. Glass’s theatrical flair in “GAMA XVI.”

Not long after the orchestra started playing the new work’s quiet opening string progressions, Ms. Sasaki appeared at the rear of the audience. Sporting a microphone pinned behind an ear and a “speaker dress” of her own design — built from 100 different audio components — she slowly marched toward the stage. As she approached at a pace Robert Wilson, Mr. Glass’s “Einstein” co-creator, would have appreciated, her high-tech garment stretched her whispered vocalizations into plumes of subtle distortion.

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The violinist Tim Fain, a Glass specialist, also appeared on Friday.

Credit
Jennifer Taylor

The string writing that accompanied this digital swirl was most memorable when it jumped between stasis and sudden glissando surges. For most of its 10 minutes, “GAMA XVI” recalled the electroacoustic mystery of Pauline Oliveros. But near the end, firmer pulsations were clearer reminders of Mr. Glass, as was a cameo appearance by the violinist Tim Fain, a Glass specialist.

Bryce Dessner’s “Réponse Lutoslawski” had its New York premiere on the same program. The work was commissioned as a response to Witold Lutoslawski’s “Musique Funèbre” (itself a tribute to Bartok). But Mr. Dessner is so steeped in American Minimalism that even a piece referring to a Polish composer took on a Glassian sheen. For stretches, this amalgamation of styles held together uneasily, but toward the end, a blend of ostinato propulsion and astringent harmony created a memorable vibe.

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