About this Recording
GP692 - GLASS, P.: Glassworlds, Vol. 4 - Hours (The) / Modern Love Waltz / Notes on a Scandal / Music in Fifths (On Love) (Horvath)
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Glassworlds • 4
The Hours • Modern Love Waltz • Notes on A Scandal • Music in Fifths


Amour à mourir

We could not choose a better theme for this fourth volume in our traversal of Philip Glass’ complete works for piano than these words taken from Apollinaire’s La Nuit d’Avril, 1915—a perfect reflection of this album’s spirit. The relationship between love and death plays an important role in the film music of Philip Glass. Threaded throughout this recording, this theme particularly haunts The Hours. Like lovers, we will heighten our experience with the sensual Modern Love Waltz (Glass’ only waltz), navigate the shores of inner destruction with Notes on a Scandal and reach a hopeful culmination with the unconditionally linked parallel lines of Music in Fifths.

The Hours is Stephen Dandry’s movie realization of Michael Cunningham’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The soundtrack, composed in 2002, is one of Philip Glass’ most passionate, obsessive and eerie scores. As the composer explained: “The Hours … is the story of three women living in three different eras: the writer Virginia Woolf, played by Nicole Kidman, who is seen during her life in the 1920s and then at her suicide in 1941; a 1950s Los Angeles housewife and mother played by Julianne Moore; and a woman played by Meryl Streep who is living in New York in 2001 and is preparing a party for her friend who has AIDS. I saw right away that the issue with the movie was that the three stories were so distinct from each other that, like a centrifugal force, they pulled you away from the centre and made it difficult to keep your attention on the movie as a whole. It seemed to me that the music had to perform a kind of structural alchemy. Somehow, it had to articulate the unity of the film. The job of the music was to tie the stories together. What was needed were three recurring musical ideas—an A theme, a B theme, and a C theme. The suicide of Virginia Woolf, for example, was always the A theme. That was always her music. The B theme was always the music from Los Angeles, and the C theme was always New York. The movie progresses A, B, C, and all six reels follow that plan. Basically, it was as if a rope had been threaded straight through the film. It was a conceptual idea, and it could be realized by the music. It worked, but it wasn’t so easy to accomplish. I don’t think there was really any other way to do it.”

The soundtrack received plaudits from critics and audiences alike. It won BAFTA’s Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music and was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a GRAMMY®. Publisher Paramount Music assigned Michael Riesman (Glass’ long-time musical director) and Nico Muhly to issue a book of arrangements for solo piano.

Other recordings of this fabulous film score have tried—with varying degrees of success—to match Riesman’s precise and rhythmic performance on the original soundtrack. My “All Glass Piano Music” concerts helped me forge a fresh approach to the timeless melancholy of the 14 pieces which comprise the complete score (most of the other available recordings include only 11). Approaching them not as mere film cues but by developing them as distinct psychological moments, I have attempted to transform them into a more organic, cyclical musical suite driven by three powerful themes.

After the mournful barcarolle of The Poet Acts, the monumental Morning Passages develops breathless obsessions that end in abject grief. The eerie Something She Has to Do gives way to two calm interludes—“For Your Own Benefit” and Vanessa and the Changelings—which are in turn succeeded by the fury of “I’m Going to Make a Cake” (a reworking of Protest from Act II, Scene 3 of the opera Satyagraha).

The deceitful desires of An Unwelcome Friend lead us to The Hours’ most anguished movements. The passionately aphotic Dead Things, the stricken The Kiss, the hopeless “Why Does Someone Have to Die?” and the desperately intense Tearing Herself Away (a transcription of Island from Glassworks) lead to the petrifying Escape! (an adaptation of Metamorphosis II) and the mournful self-sacrifice of Choosing Life. The conclusion (The Hours) is a synthesis of all those sombre fates and suffering.

Composed in 1977 for a radio reading of Constance DeJong’s novel Modern Love and then used for The Waltz Project (a dance performance of the same novel), Modern Love Waltz is—like The Café from Orphée on Glassworlds Vol. 1 [GP677]—another example of Glass’ desire to expand the limits of minimalism. Combining the Viennese tradition of the waltz with his own style (as was so often done in the nineteenth century) the bass ostinato and the intoxicating improvisation in the upper voice generate a breathtaking expression of pure energy.

Notes on a Scandal is Richard Eyre’s film version of Zoë Heller’s 2003 novel. The soundtrack, composed in 2006 and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, is an integral part of the intensely dramatic arc of the film. “The score essentially is about Barbara,” Glass states. “It begins with Barbara and it ends with Barbara.” In the film, Barbara Covett befriends a younger charismatic fellow teacher and observes her fall from grace. This transcription made by Philip Glass and published by TCF in 2007 has never been recorded before. It concentrates on two important parts: the uncomfortable, sinuous melodies of The Harts as a prelude to the tragic grand finale of I Knew Her.

It seems appropriate to conclude our exploration of love and death with this classic line from Virginia Wolf in The Hours: “I don’t think two people could have been happier than we’ve been.”

Nicolas Horvath
Adapted by Frank K. DeWald

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