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Glass: Einstein on the Beach

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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Editorial Reviews

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Phalanxes of woodwinds, organs, and voices pulse through Philip Glass's most famous opera like nothing so much as a migratory flock engaged in acrobatics overhead. There is no center to the kinetic activity; the down beat might shift, in split-second hindsight, to the up beat, and the synthesizer might suddenly upstage the libretto of nonsense syllables. The exuberant cacophony of overlapping scripts makes the term "counterpoint" seem inadequate, antiquated. Such was Glass's hope, of course, when on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. he consolidated influences as diverse as raga, minimalism, and progressive rock to produce one of the few canonical works of late-20th-century opera. The title subject might be taken as a pretext for mathematical reverie, but as much as this is "experimental" music; it is a work of art, not science. The ostensible absence of narrative--despite strong voice-over-like recitatives, written in part by the vocalists--is made up for by the lengthy work's dramatic setting, staged by Robert Wilson, and the intense forward momentum of Glass' composition. --Marc Weidenbaum

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Einstein On The Beach: Knee Play 1
  2. Einstein On The Beach: Act 1, Scene 1: Train
  3. Einstein On The Beach: Act 1, Scene 2: Trial

Disc: 2

  1. Einstein On The Beach: Knee Play 2
  2. Einstein On The Beach: Act 2, Scene 1: Dance I
  3. Einstein On The Beach: Act 2, Scene 2: Night Train
  4. Einstein On The Beach: Knee Play 3

Disc: 3

  1. Einstein On The Beach: Act 3, Scene 1: Trial - Prison
  2. Einstein On The Beach: Act 3, Scene 2: Dance 2
  3. Einstein On The Beach: Knee Play 4

Disc: 4

  1. Einstein On The Beach: Act 4, Scene 1: Building - Train
  2. Einstein On The Beach: Act 4, Scene 2: Bed
  3. Einstein On The Beach: Act 4, Scene 3: Spaceship
  4. Einstein On The Beach: Knee Play 5


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Philip Glass Ensemble
  • Conductor: Michael Reisman
  • Composer: Philip Glass
  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B0000025W6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,337 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on January 5, 2003
Format: Audio CD
The consensus seems to be in and that is to go with the Nonesuch recording. This Sony recording was the origninal one, performed when Einstein on the Beach was still "hot from the oven." I agree and disagree with the reviewers below. While the title and concept are the same on these two recordings, they are, virtually speaking, two different operas!
If you are a first timer, new to Glass and Wilsons mammoth opera, get the other recording. The musicians are more "fluent in the language," the tempo and feel is smoother throughout and the mix is superior. One problem, the Nonesuch recording, in all its technical ease, is just less exciting. This Sony recording was recorded in the late seventies, when Einstein was new, fresh, and revolutionary. The tempos are generally faster (most noticably in "knee play 3 and and "Building/Train").
Also, I fear that Ashley Pomeroy's review below is misleading. The music IS NOT the same. Quite a bit of reorchestration and rewriting occured between these two recordings. "Building/Train" was originally scored with organ as the main insturment, not violin. Much of the spoken text is different as is Richard Peck's solo in the "Building/Train" scene. The experienced listener will also be able to detect NUMEROUS rewrites (most conspicuous to me was the 9ths and 7ths played by the flute in the "Train" scene giving an otherwise mechanized (and frankly, rather dull) scene a dreamy, cushioned feel.
All in all though, the sudden drop-outs of insturments, the lack of a click-track and the annoying four disc (with no track breaks for the "Trial", Trial/Prison" and "Bed" scenes forces me to give this three stars. Still, if you love Einstein like I do, you will want both recordings.
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Format: Audio CD
The original recording, this is shorter, less 'smooth', and punkier than the subsequent re-recording. The cut-down length isn't really noticeable, although you'll be annoyed that it comes on four CDs when it could easily have fitted onto two.
Musically there's no real difference between this and the follow-up - the performers here are the original cast, and the organs and so forth are a lot more artificial-sounding, but that adds to the atmosphere. Apart from the truncated ending, it's hard to notice the different lengths, and the performances seem more 'real' and less rehearsed here, although the players have obviously been trained to within inches of their lives.
Which one to buy? The sleeve-notes are copious and useful in both cases, the packaging is equally solid (although this is in a hard plastic case, whereas the follow-up is in card), the weights and chemical compositions are roughly equivalent, so it's best to go by price and availability, really.
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Format: Audio CD
The 3 stars here do not reflect my feelings about Einstein on the Beach, an incredible work of art which forever changed the face of Western music. My rating reflects only the quality of this CD. Presumably, if you're reading this, you're shopping for one of the two Einstein on the Beach recordings and trying to pick between the two. This is the vastly INFERIOR disc. The improvement in synthesizer capabilities in the decades between this recording and the later one are notable from the beginning of Disc 1, Track 1. The early organs here have a sort of nasal, anemic sound, as opposed to the warm full sound of the other performance. Recording technology also improved, and the overall result on the other disc is better tone, better clarity. Fulkerson's violin playing is more soulful than Zukovsky's, and his huge sound is far more appropriate in much of the passagework. The other recording provides far greater accuracy and superior tone and clarity throughout in the other instruments as well, in particular the piccolos, and the choir there is simply better. In addition, apparently for time issues, there are disturbing cuts in the piece, particularly the second half of Knee Play 5, the final coda. Finally, the price tag here is substantially more discouraging.
If you like Einstein on the Beach, absolutely get a recording. If you are curious about Philip Glass and want a representative sample of his best music, absolutely get a recording. Just get the other one.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I own this version as well as the Nonesuch version. I respect both of them. I owned it on vinyl in the seventies and found it to be an exciting discovery. On CD, I bought the Nonesuch version first. It was nice to be reunited with an old friend. A middle aged old friend. The Nonesuch version version has much richer tonality than the original recording. Do I go to Einstein on the Beach for rich tonality? No, I go to it for edgy relentlessness. Although the Nonesuch version is longer, it is much less relentless. It's pacing is more leisurely. It seems to be striving for stateliness, to be seen as a classic, which it now is. I later bought the original recording on CD and was reunited with a friend who hasn't changed, It is still an exciting discovery. I prefer the flat tone of the vocals on the original as well. The later version sounds more practiced to be sure, but with that practice came a desire to emote and vary tone. To "act". It's guilding the lily. Nevertheless, I like both versions and play both from time to time. This opera is a true classic. and much better than it's schmaltzy followups in the trilogy. (Relatedly, I prefer the shortened ending without the kissing scene. Guess I am not a romantic!).
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