3:17 pm Jun. 20, 2012
First things first: The Philip Glass Ensemble will play its only free concert of the year, tonight, at Rockefeller Park in Battery City (entrance is at the corner of River Terrace and Warren Street).
If you’ve never seen Glass play his own music, there have been—and will continue to be—a great number of opportunities during this, his 75th birthday year. (But this one is the cheapest!) Even if you have seen Glass perform his music before, this particular concert is one to strongly consider catching. Right now, the composer sounds, well, pretty damn good.
When performing three of his own etudes for solo piano last week at the Issue Project Room, I was struck by how much his rough-hewn technique had admitted of a Rachmaninoff-like grandeur (one not particularly to be found on his own original recording of those etudes on his Orange Mountain Music label). Like Charles Mingus, you’d never mistake the Glass piano technique for a virtuoso’s—but then again, like Mingus, Glass has the ability to charm and inspire wonder behind the keyboard, when playing his own creations.
I was reminded of how, when talking to Glass for Capital on his 75th birthday, earlier this year, he said the main difference between his ensemble’s performances of Einstein On the Beach in the late '70s versus now was that they’d “gotten better” at playing his music. In a way, the intense local presence of the Philip Glass Ensemble this year—they played the three-and-a-half-hour Music In Twelve Parts earlier this spring, and have been touring the four-and-a-half hour Einstein On the Beach the world over—seems to have been doubling serving as a cram session, before the local revival of Einstein at BAM, set for September. They’re going to be well-rehearsed.
About that coming revival of Einstein: early-access season passes to BAM’s Next Wave festival went on sale last week to “friends of BAM”—that is, people who have fronted a tax-deductible $75 contribution to the organization. With another fragment of my conversation with Glass in mind—he advised me that the revival has been selling out very quickly—I ponied up that “friend of BAM” sum and went ahead and bought myself a season pass, with an Einstein performance included. (I’m planning to see the show several times.)
Glass wasn’t wrong; the demand was so heavy that it slowed the pace of BAM’s ticket-ordering server to an un-surfable crawl; when I did get in, some of the choicest sections of the programming were already spoken for on multiple evenings. You have to commit to four performances to get a season pass—and once you do, all tickets are discounted 20 percent anyway, more or less paying for one’s “friend of BAM” membership. (I chose performances by the Pina Bausch company, as well as of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and Euripedes’ The Trojan Women to round out my package.) Because that’s a lot of information to process, that means season passes are available for Einstein and other highlights of Next Wave, and should be, to “friends of BAM” until single-tickets go on sale to the public on August 13. (Season passes go on sale to the public next Monday, June 25.)"
That means you still have time to decide if you really want to go all in on Glass performances, for the balance of his 75th birthday season. Tonight, the repertoire that Glass’s ensemble will be playing is something of a mystery. The River to River festival site only references a “retrospective program” of works by the composer.
But since the weather’s supposed to be fine (if rather hot), there’s no problem in waiting to find out what’s on the program. Glass newbies and old-hands alike shouldn’t sweat the 7 p.m. start time either, if trying to juggle work and dinner schedules. The concert opens with the teenaged ensemble Face the Music playing “Glassworks,” a 40-minute suite—which should be a treat to hear. But the main attraction won’t begin until closer to 8. Consider adjusting your evening plans.
More by this author:
- The surprising and genre-confounding collaboration of Hillary Hahn and Hauschka
- Experimental composer Pauline Oliveros, having her big moment at age 80