Kronos’ Fifty for the Future Composers

Philip Glass - USA

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Program Notes

Serving as both muse and vehicle for Philip Glass’s music, Kronos Quartet has played an essential role in the composer’s creative realm for decades. But “Quartet Satz,” Glass’s contribution to Kronos’ Fifty for the Future initiative, isn’t just a dazzling addition to a body of work that constitute one of new music’s definitive relationships. Solemn, measured and inexorable as the tides, the sweeping piece distills the rhythmic and emotional currents that have woven Glass’s music into our consciousness.
“Each movement feels like an entire universe,” says Kronos’ David Harrington. “That’s what I thought before we even played it. Philip was giving us something that encapsulates his entire vision in one work. I think it’s one of his most amazing pieces. Philip has this connection to the early root system of the string quartet, a connection you hear it in its gorgeous sonorities.”
At this point it’s impossible to know whether we experience Glass’ work as cinematic because of the countless times film scores have employed his music or whether there’s something inherent in his palette of pulse and texture and melodic imagination that evokes the moving image. No collaboration better embodies the depth of Glass’ relationship with Kronos than the score for Todd Browning’s Dracula, which they performed together live numerous times at screenings of the classic 1931 film and documented on a 1999 Nonesuch album.
Glass has written several other major pieces specifically for Kronos, starting with 1991’s “String Quartet No. 5” (featured on the 1995 Nonesuch album Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass). All of those experiences came to play in writing “Satz Quartet,” as Glass had the ensemble in mind as he was composing. “I automatically visualize them playing the music and know how they sound,” he says. “I’m thinking, ‘This will be a good part for Hank. He will like this part.’ I think it’s likely I’ll never have this kind of a relationship with another quartet.”
Glass’ history with Kronos isn’t the piece’s only subtext. Some of the ideas in “Satz Quartet” first appeared in a piece he wrote for Robert Hurwitz marking the end of his spectacularly productive tenure running Nonesuch. But the title also unambiguously references Schubert’s famously incomplete “Quartettsatz,” a move that Glass acknowledges with a chuckle as “a form of self-aggrandizement. Schubert was my father’s favorite composer. I grew up with him, and we actually share a birthday, January 31st. I know the Schubert landscape like the back of my hand.”
Under the auspices of Kronos’ Fifty for the Future, Glass’ hand now gracefully welcomes new generations of string players. Mastering “Quartet Satz” means grappling with the string quartet as an organic organism, and the piece’s architectural strength means that Kronos can usher young musicians inside the piece. At a recent string festival at Austria’s Esterházy Palace “we had an amazing experience with two very fine quartets we were mentoring, Canada’s Rolston String Quartet and South Korea’s Esmé Quartet,” Harrington says. “The 12 of us played ‘Satz’ as an encore and it sounded glorious.”

Philip Glass' Quartet Satz was commissioned as part of the Kronos Performing Arts Association’s Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, which is made possible by a group of adventurous partners, including Carnegie Hall and many others.

Program note by Andy Gilbert

About Philip Glass

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. In the early 1960s, Glass spent two years of intensive study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and while there, earned money by transcribing Ravi Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation.

By 1974, Glass had a number of innovative projects, creating a large collection of new music for The Philip Glass Ensemble, and for the Mabou Mines Theater Company. This period culminated in Music in Twelve Parts, and the landmark opera, Einstein on the Beach for which he collaborated with Robert Wilson. Since Einstein, Glass has expanded his repertoire to include music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra, and film.

His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). Glass’ Symphony No. 7 and Symphony No. 8, along with Waiting for the Barbarians, an opera based on the book by J.M. Coetzee, premiered in 2005. In April 2007, the English National Opera, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Opera, remounted Glass’ Satyagraha, which appeared in New York in April 2008. Glass’ opera Kepler, based on the life and work of Johannes Kepler and commissioned by Linz 2009, Cultural Capital of Europe, and Landestheater Linz, premiered in September 2009 in Linz, Austria and in November 2009 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Symphony #9 was completed in 2011 and premiered in Linz, Austria in January 1, 2012 by the Bruckner Orchestra, followed by a U.S. premiere in New York at Carnegie Hall on January 31, 2012 as part of the composer's 75th birthday celebration. Symphony #10 was completed this spring and received its European premiere in France in the summer of 2012.

In August of 2011, Glass launched the inaugural season of The Days And Nights Festival, a multi-disciplinary arts festival in Carmel / Big Sur, California.

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