At 75, Composer Philip Glass Continues to Evolve
Although composers are usually multi-talented musicians, we sometimes think of them narrowly. When we think of Mahler, his symphonies come to mind first; Schubert leads us almost immediately to vocal music; Rachmaninoff as the composer of piano works. But more often than not, composers don’t fit well into small categories. Their output often has a significant amount of variety and, over time, reflects a constantly changing attitude towards music. The composer Philip Glass is out to prove this point. While he is associated with the development of the minimalist movement in twentieth century music, Glass claims that he has now moved far beyond such a “facile label.” After celebrating his 75th birthday this year, Glass is touring around the world, playing music both old and new that confirms his role in music history and emphasizes his continued musical evolution.
He makes a stop on that tour today, April 3rd, in Kansas City’ Helzberg Hall, at the Kaufman Center for Performing Arts. Addition to performances of by the composer on piano, the violinist Tim Fain will join in performances of Glass’ solo violin music as well as a few duets. The selected music ranges from pieces written in 1970 to the partita for solo violin, which is only a year old. Glass acknowledges the role that minimalism had in his development as a composer, but emphasizes that he never stopped growing:
“It was true 30 years ago, but that was a long time ago,” he said. “There was a time in the mid-’70s, when the works I composed before ‘Einstein on the Beach’ were reductive and radical. But you’re talking about a person who’s been writing music for 50 years. As composers develop, they emphasize different parts of their language.”
“I don’t mean to compare myself to someone as lofty as Beethoven,” he said, “but Beethoven’s early piano sonatas are very different from his late string quartets. Later in his life, Copland was writing very different music than ‘Appalachian Spring.’ The same is true with Stravinsky or anybody else.
Just as Glass’ early has been described as a transformative process, so is his career. To have a composer who has contributed so much to the development of an essential idiom of modern classical music alive, composing, and performing his own music still is extraordinary. One can think of few composers who were able to perform pieces they wrote 40 years ago, let alone take on new projects that are even bigger and more daring than the last. Visit Philip Glass’ website to learn more about his touring schedule and when he might be coming to a city near you!