Philip Glass, Music in Twelve Parts – Barbican

 

Spirited and spellbinding, Philip Glass’s minimalist masterpiece is performed in full by an ensemble featuring musicians closely associated with Glass’s music, led by James McVinnie and including Eliza McCarthy, Timo Andres, David Kaplan and more.

Over the course of twelve movements, brief, elegant melodies interlock, developing slowly and almost imperceptibly, its trance-like structure echoing the music of Ravi Shankar more than other Western compositions of the same era. It’s a piece that pulls off complexity with seeming simplicity, its constantly shifting textures creating the effect of shimmering stasis. Above all, this is a soulful, absorbing piece – a completely mesmerising tapestry of sound.

Premiered in 1974 with a performance that lasted over four hours, Music in Twelve Parts has only ever been performed by the composer’s group, the Philip Glass Ensemble – until now. In his 80th birthday year, Glass has given his blessing to this performance, passing the baton to a new generation of musicians, in the shape of this trans-Atlantic ensemble specially assembled by Bedroom Community member James McVinnie, a pianist and organist who has collaborated with Nico Muhly, Squarepusher and Bryce Dessner. The line-up features bright star of the New York Contemporary Music scene, composer-pianist Timo Andres, his regular collaborator David Kaplan, Maaike van der Linde and Marlies van Gangelen from stargaze, as well as other musicians familiar to Barbican audiences including Viola Da Gamba player Liam Byrne, pianist Eliza McCarthy and Alarm Will Sound percussionist Chris Thompson.

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