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Glass: Kepler

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 8, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Philip Glass' opera from 2009 explores the life of scientist Johannes Kepler though a series of dramatic scenes with two hours of Glass' music. Kepler in many ways hearkens back to Glass' portrait operas of the early 1980s and continues the composers interest in scientists after having also written operas on Einstein and Galileo. The opera premiered at the Landestheater Linz in 2009 as part of Linz 09, the European Cultural Capital, and continues the amazing 30 year collaboration between Glass and the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, the music director of both the Landestheater Linz and its orchestra, the Bruckner Orchester Linz who has also recorded Glass' music extensively for the Orange Mountain Music label including Glass Symphonies 6, 7, and 8, and Glass' large scale opera The Voyage which was originally written for the Metropolitan Opera. Kepler is a refreshing return to large scale symphonic writing for the opera house. Recent Glass operas including Waiting for the Barbarians and Appomattox carry more dialogue and intimate narrative scenes whereas Kepler is a musical dedication to the life of this great scientists - triumphs and human flaws. As Glass states: "Kepler was a man with his mind in the clouds and his feet in the mud." This Orange Mountain Music recording was made in 2010 from live performances during its extensive run in Linz, and is the world premiere recording. Kepler is sung in German and Latin and contains the full libretto with English translation in the deluxe two disc digipack.

Review

Glass always sets out on his musical journeys from the same place, and his score begins familiarly, with his trademark musical figures. But where he winds up is another story. Kepler is his most chromatic, complex, psychological score. I sense, on the American opera scene, a ho-hum attitude to Glass, based on the assumption that he always does the same thing. Most important companies have by now done one or maybe two (though, L.A., none) of his operas. The older works are favored over the new. Nothing is planned anywhere in the U.S. at the moment. Critics don t go out of their way to keep up. Europe pays more attention. Linz is a town of 200,000, and its performances of Kepler (which runs through early January) serve as a tourist attraction and sell out. Linz knows what we don t that Glass, following Kepler's lead, understands that there really may be a music of the spheres. Kepler is a wise, major opera. --Los Angeles Times 11-19-2009

Perhaps the most radical thing about Kepler is its presentation in front of a young, mostly secular and liberal audience in Brooklyn of a hero who is both genuinely scientific and genuinely religious. In our culture, today s great scientists are imagined to be wholly secular, even atheistic, which is simply not the case. The chorus sings, By Him, through Him, within Him is everything, and that everything includes Kepler s scientific discoveries as well as his prayers. And there s no sense that Mr. Glass has a problem with this or thinks that we in the 21st century have some better handle on the truth of the matter. There s something refreshing about the composer s willingness to depict a belief in God as meaningful and not a belief that s potentially hip like Taoism or Buddhism, but good, old-fashioned Lutheranism. Something that doesn t get said about Mr. Glass enough, but that may in the end be one of the real distinctions between him and other composers popular with a contemporary, liberal audience, is that he always gives religious belief its due, without condescension. It s one of the many pleasures of his surprisingly moving new opera, which will hopefully return to New York soon, perhaps alongside Galileo. --New York Observer 11-24-2010

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Act I - Prologue
  2. I - Questions 1
  3. II - Polyeder
  4. III - Genesis
  5. IV - Gryphius 1: Upon the Night
  6. V - Physica Coelestis
  7. VI - Gryphius 2
  8. VII - Questions 2
  9. VIII - Gryphius 3: Eyes. Optical Paradox

Disc: 2

  1. ACT II - I - On Astrology
  2. II - Gryphius IV: To the Stars
  3. III - Hypotheses
  4. IV - Gryphius 5: Tears of the Fatherland
  5. V - Ephemerides
  6. Epilogue


Product Details

  • Performer: Soloists and Chorus of the Landestheater Linz
  • Orchestra: Bruckner Orchester Linz
  • Conductor: Dennis Russell Davies
  • Composer: Philip Glass
  • Audio CD (February 8, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: ORANGE MOUNTAIN
  • ASIN: B004BUL554
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,455 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marvin Cohodas on April 2, 2011
When I first heard that Philip Glass was writing an opera on Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) for Linz, it was clear that the opera was designed to honor one of this Austrian city's most famous residents. I further presumed that Glass would entwine Kepler's fight for scientific truth with his mother's trial for witchcraft. But that turned out not to be Glass's intent. Kepler's mother is never mentioned in this 2009 opera. Other issues are at stake here.

As in his first trio of "great men" works, this is a portrait opera, not a narrative drama. There is of course a narrative thread through the opera, though in word and mood only, not in action. This kind of drama, with all talk and no action, is very hard to stage. Indeed, when it was performed in New York City, it was given as a concert opera. Perhaps oratorio would be a better word. The Kepler character's alternation with the chorus and an ensemble of soloists recalls religious services in the call and response or antiphonal format. In turn these sections at various points alternate with choral settings of poems by Andreas Gryphius (1616-64). The oratorio-like format works perfectly as a means of getting into the mind of a person, like many others of his time, who understood his scientific inquiry as a contribution both to knowledge about and to the glory of his God: the more he could learn about the workings of nature, especially planetary orbits, the more he would understand about nature's Creator, and the closer he would feel to his God.

In the libretto by Martina Winkel, Kepler is featured in eight of the opera's segments, providing a succinct summary of his achievements, only some of which we might today consider "scientific.
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A few of the other reviews were saying that KEPLER is just the same old recycled Glass. I've been a Glass fan since the mid-80's and I guess I must have really drunk a million gallons of the Glass Kool-Aid, because I find KEPLER beautiful, powerful, and unique. While Glass may use the same techniques as filler here and there, many of the different sections of KEPLER are unlike any other Glass. For instance, the ending of the third track on Disc 1 is worth the price of admission itself! I've listened to this a thousand times already. The ending piece of the work, Track 6 on Disc 2 is a blast to listen to on the car stereo with the windows rolled down through downtown, LOL! KEPLER is a great work and I'm looking forward to attending a performance of KEPLER at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC in June 2012. I love Philip Glass and naysayers can shove it! LOL!
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The libretto of this opera is a brilliant poetic patchwork with a long excerpt from Genesis, the book of the Old Testament of course, and several poems from Gryphius, a poet who describes the 30 Years’ War in Germany. The rest of the libretto uses various sources and alternates Latin and German, and Latin is not gratuitous since it was connected to the Catholic Church at the time and the Lutherans rejected the use of this language. The opening piece and the closing piece are the same epitaph Kepler officially wrote himself for his own death. It is in Latin.

We have to understand this physicist lived in a pivotal period in Europe. He was born in 1571 and died in 1630, very exactly twelve years after the beginning of the 30 Years’ War in 1618 that was to end in 1648. On the other hand Gryphius was born in 1616 and died in 1664 and he lived his whole childhood and youth in the middle of this war. This pivotal period was centered in Germany around this long war between the Catholics and the Protestants. We have to understand that such religious wars were long and brutal in France, just the same in Germany and at the same time they were the main stake of the English Civil War and Puritan revolution, after having been the main stake under Henry VIII, his son Edward II, his daughter Mary I and his second daughter Elizabeth I. For at least three quarters of a century or even one full century the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants went on without any visible reconciliation possible.

It is though in this very period that science really started sprouting genuine buds and set its first concepts on the table.
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About 25 years ago I bought my first Philip Glass music: __Akhnaten,__ which has since been my favourite and which I play at least twice a month. Last year I got some Philip Glass music that will more than likely receive the same treatment. If you want to learn more, please read on.

On Christmas Eve, 2014, not having bought much music that year, I decided to treat myself so I ordered seven Philip Glass pieces. One of them was __Kepler:__ an opera. The CDs arrived a few days after Christmas that year. At that stage, I owned more than 100 CDs with Philip Glass music, which is why I decided I wanted to write a review. (Please note that I don't have a musical background, so this is not a technical review.)

Johannes Kepler was a 17th century astronomer: a controversial person, whose greatest contribution is his __Laws of Planetary Motion.__ Kepler lived part of his life in Linz, where he taught mathematics. Writing about the work in his notes on the programme, Dennis Russell Davies points out that __Kepler__ is ``not about biographical details'' but instead about ``the fundamental questions that [the man] Kepler was obsessed with, and which he hoped __scientific principles__ could answer'' (emphasis by reviewer).

The opera was composed for the Upper Austrian State Theater and __Linz09,__ celebrating Linz's being The European Capital of Culture in 2009.

__Kepler,__ the package, comes with 2 CDs and a booklet with libretto, bios, and credits. At the time of writing I must have played the work some 10--15 times. It is a wonderful, mesmerising, dynamic, rhythmic, and __swinging__ piece of work. I consider it a great contribution.

Martina Winkel wrote the libretto. Not surprisingly, Dennis Russell Davies conducted the piece.
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