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This is an extraordinary recording - hauntingly beautiful and deeply moving. I picked up the disk a week or so ago and can't stop listening to it. It is without question the best work Glass has released in many years. I had, to be honest, grown rather weary of the repetitive motifs that characterize so much of his work, through they once had mesmerized me, and picked up this album with some trepidation. It turned out to be a brilliant gamble.
The recording collects two pieces, the title track and "Tissues," a score written for one of his collaborative films. Long-time listeners of Glass's work will hear very familiar echoes in the latter work, which features a gently lyrical cello with either a piano or percussion offering a circular baseline. Because I've heard so much piano work from Glass, I found the movements of "Tissues" with contrapuntal percussion (#2 and #4) more interesting. But, really I think of this piece just as lagniappe, and the record would be just as strong - maybe stronger, depending on your tastes - without it. It's the title track, "Songs and Poems," that will bowl you over. The opening notes announce a work of singular intensity deeply steeped in the classical tradition, as powerful and ineffably sad as one of Schumann's lieder. It's a piece more for fans of Schubert, Dvorak, Kodaly, and late Beethoven than Reich, Riley, Nyman, and early Glass. The fifth movement alone is worth the price of admission - six emotionally devastating minutes of heart-wringing beauty that will leave you shivering in your seat.
As wonderful as Glass's composition is, the power of this recording is due in no small part to a stunningly virtuosic performance by Wendy Sutter.Read more ›
Unlike virtually every other Glass composition to which I have been exposed, "Songs and Poems" displayed real intellectualism and honesty of a kind I have never expected from the man who produced (and continuously re-produced) "Glassworks." These compositions, while recognizably minimalist in style and form, are unusually jagged-edged and stormy--romantic, I would say, in a way very unlike Glass' usual treacle and posturing.
Sutter's command of the material really elevates and justifies its emotional content. I would have never expected it, but these pieces are not only emotionally convincing, but convincing in a gripping and agonized fashion which reflects impressively on the soloist. She is both restrained and emphatic; for the first and only time in Glass' body of work I think we have encountered real, unselfconscious command of the emotional possibilities of minimalist music. I can't over-stress Sutter's contribution to this impressive success: Her intellectual command of the material and her expressive technique have literally made the piece what it is.
It is unusual for me to compliment a composition on its emotional content, but it is so extremely unusual to see Glass write with honest and unsentimental vulnerability, depression, elevation and rage that it's all the more surprising how effectively he has carried it off. As suspicious of emotionally sensational material as I am, I have repeatedly enjoyed this recording and, in fact, enjoyed it more each time.
We just listened to extended portions of this record on the radio and it is extraordinarily beautiful. We had trouble guessing what decade or century it might be from and were very surprised it was Philip Glass. The music is both lyrical and haunting, and beautifully played and recorded. Highly recommended, don't miss it if you enjoy cello.
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The accuracy of the Cello is a clear challenge to the composer, who's work has been focsed on the precision of ensembles and percussion (including solo piano). Mr. Glass has accepted the challenge to go deep and created his most haunting work to date. The composition, performance and recording all come together in a way that reveals the soul that has been inside the machine driving his work all along.
The first few times I heard this CD I was enthusiastic ... intense and exciting music played with great style and power by cellist Wendy Sutter.
Over time, however, my enjoyment has been undermined by the realization that the producers of this disc did not take the special care needed when recording a powerful string instrument like the magnificent ex-Vatican Stradivarius used by Sutter. As a result, there is a distinct grating and perhaps even clipping during the loudest passages. I spend much time listening to live cello, and have concluded that this disc does not provide a pleasing or accurate rendition. Moreover, I have played the disc on a variety of sound systems, from a cheap boombox to computer speakers to a couple of high-end setups, including a reference professional headphone amp. It sounds worse on the better systems as these more clearly reveal the shortcomings of the recording.
I looked up the label that produced the CD, Orange Mountain Music. They describe themselves as "a new record company created to serve the fans, aficionados and academics studying the music of Philip Glass." Perhaps, as a small outfit, they did not have the expertise or facilities needed to make a professional-quality recording.
Whatever the case may be, these are delightful works played by an excellent cellist. Both the composition and the performer would have deserved better sound engineering.