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Glass: The Passion of Ramakrishna

Pacific Symphony , Carl St.Clair , Philip Glass , Carl St. Clair , John Alexander Audio CD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Performer: Carl St. Clair, John Alexander
  • Orchestra: Pacific Symphony
  • Conductor: Carl St.Clair
  • Composer: Philip Glass
  • Audio CD (October 9, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • ASIN: B008PV6CAI
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,074 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Prologue
2. Part 1
3. Part 2
4. Part 3
5. Part 4
6. Epilogue

Editorial Reviews


The piece is a 40-minute choral and symphonic tribute to a simple Hindu holy man whose book, the Gospel of Ramakrishna, greatly influenced the composer. Glass score movingly portrays the death and transformation of this 19th century Indian spiritual leader. In its quiet intensity and subtle scene painting, it shows Glass in his element as a theater composer. The Passion of Ramakrishna is scored for a very large - 110-plus - chorus, full orchestra and five soloists, in small but potent parts. Yet Glass thoughtful orchestration and polytonal interweaving of voices, along with St.Clair's and the Pacific Symphony's care for balance and dynamics, maintained an intimate quality throughout. This touching Passion also unfolded with memorable dignity thanks to the restrained singing and superb clarity of John Alexander's Pacific Chorale, and the heartfelt work of soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, baritone Christòpheren Nomura, bass Kevin Deas, mezzo-soprano I-Chin Feinblatt and tenor Nicholas Preston. --Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2011

Product Description

Orange Mountain Music presents the world premiere recording of Philip Glass' The Passion of Ramakrishna. Commissioned by the Pacific Symphony and premiered in 2006 during the opening of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, Glass' 45 minute oratorio, written for soloists, chorus and large orchestra, is a passion play and a tribute to 19th Century Indian spiritual leader Sri Ramakrishna. The work portrays his death with the chorus taking up the voice of Ramakrishna himself and the soloists are those of his loved ones, doctor and disciples. Maestro Carl St.Clair, a longtime champion of the music of Philip Glass, leads the Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale and soloists Christopheren Numura, Janice Chandler Eteme, Kevin Deas, I Chin Feinblatt and Nicholas Preston.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glass magic! September 4, 2012
Format:Audio CD
"The Passion of Ramakrishna" is a 44 minute oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, which premiered in 2006, and is one of my very favorite Glass works. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of the work in Nashville, of all places, back in 2007, with Glass in attendance as well.

The work has a prologue, then four parts of approximately nine minutes each, and an epilogue.

The subject matter - the life, teachings and death of a 19th-century Indian holy man, otherwise known as a mystic, Sri Ramakrishna, told largely in his own words - is inspiration for a Glassic- a Glass Classic!

The Ramakrishna speaks via the choir, giving his words and wisdom an extra-human quality. The words of his wife and devotees are given to solo singers, thus creating a fascinating dialogue between the terrestrial and celestial. With its crisp word-setting (usually one note per syllable) and short sentence phrases, the narrative and drama remain front and center. The orchestra provides drive and mood - the latter quickly changing or ruminative, as need be - and introduces spicy harmonies and jagged rhythms.

The ending epilogue section for soloists and chorus is simply amazingly beautiful. As many times as I've listened to this awesome section, which is easily one of the most beautiful things Glass has written, with a text that reads as follows below, I fantasize about giving all the great composers this text and asking them to set it, in a contest (without letting them know how anyone else set it first).
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Choral praise for a great mystic master September 4, 2012
Format:Audio CD
Composer Philip Glass is known for his longstanding interest in Indian culture and spirituality, that dates back to (at least) his first visit of India in 1966. Also, Glass' early years in Paris come to mind, where he discovered his own musical style through assisting Ravi Shankar on a film score. Glass fans will also remember 'Passages' - a collaboration between those two composers. (The new CD also contains 'Meetings along the edge', originally released on 'Passages'.) The most important of Glass' works though, that refers directly to the subject of Indian music and spirituality, is certainly 'Satyagraha', his famous opera from 1979.

The new work, that premiered in 2006 in Costa Mesa, is a 40 minutes score for chorus, full orchestra and five soloists. The sound reminds a bit on Symphony No. 5 (Choral), that was composed for the Salzburg Festical in 1999. Other than the 5th symphony the more recent piece hasn't been drawn from different sources of "wisdom traditions". The underlying message, however, is pretty much the same, since Ramkrishna taught that all religions lead to the same god.

'The Passion of Ramakrishna' is everything else but minimalist, at least when it comes to sound and emotional impact: The typical (repetitive) Glass ingredients take a backseat, when the opulent chorus retells the story of Ramakrishna, his life, illness and the transformation of death. Glass has succeeded beautifully in turning his inspiration from the Bengali classic, 'The Gospel of Ramakrishna' (by Swami Nikhilananda), into a deeply touching piece of music.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hindu Teaching of World Consciousness September 10, 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is a rather straight-ahead religious oratorio in honor of a 19th-century Indian guru, Sri Ramakrishna and the imparting of his teachings to his disciple and to other adepts as he approaches death from throat cancer. The essence is the perception that everything is Divine Consciousness (Mother Kali) and is already united; ego is a blindfold. This Passion is performed by the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale, large ensembles based in Orange County, California. The six characters and their vocal performers are Sri Ramarisha (the chorus); Mahendranath Gupta, the narrator (baritone Christòpheren Nomura); Saranda Devi, Ramarkishna's wife (soprano Janice Chandler Eteme); physician Mahrendra Lal Sarkar (bass Kevij Deas); and two devotees, First (mezzo-soprano I-'Chin Feinblatt) and Second (tenor Nicholas Preston). Glass's music has its dramatic harmonic introductions and interludes and it is largely propulsive with its moderate pulsing waves. While beautiful and soothing in presentation, and certainly well sung and played, I find this piece to be among the lesser group of the composer's products. Perhaps the fairly constant tone and rhythm and the lack dramatic story is the reason. The content, after all, is philosophical, a story of transcendence. The piece does grip and hold the listener, and doubtlessly watching a live performance will bring a stronger and more personal appreciation. [For the record, I subscribe to the core philosophy as a Hua-Yen Buddhist.]
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