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The Pacific Symphony Features Composer Philip Glass This Month

Composer Philip Glass.

One of America’s most fascinating and pre-eminent living composers, Philip Glass, goes under the microscope when Pacific Symphony partners with Long Beach Opera to present the first-ever Southern California Philip Glass Festival this month.

Both the Symphony’s 11th American Composers Festival – “The Passion of Philip Glass” – and LBO’s production of the Glass opera “Akhnaten” and accompanying events featuring films, lectures, discussions probe deeply into the man and his music.

“I am really thrilled about Pacific Symphony’s new collaboration with the Long Beach Opera,” says Music Director Carl St.Clair. “Joining forces with our Philip Glass ACF and featuring this amazing American composer in such a joint venture is exactly what makes the arts scene in Southern California so exciting.”

In addition to LBO’s production of the opera, “Akhnaten” on March 19 and March 27,  and the Symphony’s main concerts featuring “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” the Glass Festival includes the Symphony’s solo piano recital “Glass Plays Glass”; films scored by Glass:  “Koyaanisqatsi,” “Powaqqatsi,”  and  “Naqoyqatsi,” presented by LBO, and “The Illusionist,” presented by the Symphony in collaboration with Newport Beach Film Festival. LBO also offers a lecture on “Akhnaten and his World” at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and “An Afternoon with Philip Glass” exploring the opera “Akhnaten” at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA).

A number of the events include an in-person discussion with the composer.

The unifying theme for the Symphony’s 2011 ACF, led by St.Clair, is the influence that India’s music and philosophy have had on Glass. The Festival focuses on the composer’s collaborations with Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, whom Glass first met in India in 1965.

In 2006, Pacific Symphony co-commissioned with the Nashville Symphony a work from Glass for orchestra and chorus, “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” which received its world premiere at the gala opening of the Symphony’s home, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. This year’s ACF revisits this momentous work and presents complementary works from Glass’s oeuvre, with the goal of bringing this modern master to the greater attention of music patrons in Southern California.

Mixing Eastern and Western traditions, Glass’ heroic musical homage to a simple Hindu holy man paints an exquisite symphonic and choral picture of India emerging from centuries of foreign domination. Glass’s concerto for saxophone quartet and orchestra rounds out this south Asian odyssey.

Carl St. Clair welcomes Philip Glass on stage following the Pacific Symphony’s world premiere performance of “The Passion of Ramakrishna” at the opening of the Segerstrom Concert Hall in 2006. The work will be reprised by the symphony this month as part of the 11th American Composers Festival “The Passion of Philip Glass.”

The Symphony’s ACF begins March 10-12, 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, with St.Clair conducting “The Passion of Philip Glass,” a concert featuring Christópheren Nomura, baritone; Prism Quartet, saxophones; Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano; and Kevin Deas, bass-baritone. The concert begins with an excerpt from “Meetings Along the Edge” from “Passages,” a 1990 collaboration between Glass and Shankar, with each having written arrangements around themes created by the other. The program also includes one of Glass’ most performed concertos, for saxophone quartet and orchestra, composed for the Rascher Saxophone Quartet in 1995. The concert rounds out with Glass’s epic “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” and includes pre- and post-concert talks with Glass and St.Clair.

“This will most certainly be a sonic treat for everyone,” says St.Clair. “In addition to ‘Passion of Ramakrishna,’ Prism is one of the world’s best sax quartets. The works on this year’s festival will demonstrate the immense breadth of Philip’s musical language.”

On Sunday, March 13, at 3 p.m., in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, St.Clair and the orchestra further explore the “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” Glass’s symphonic tribute to the 19th century Indian spiritual leader, during Classical Connections, an informative and relaxed Sunday afternoon conversation and performance.

“I’ve always had a strong attraction to choral music,” adds Glass. “As a young

man I sang in choruses and got to know the choral literature fairly well. And choruses enjoy singing my music—it’s well written for the voice. This piece is a good example of that. The chorus is central.”

The ancillary event, “Glass Plays Glass,” takes place Monday, March 14, at 8 p.m. in the Samueli Theater, and features an evening of solo piano music composed and performed by Glass. The exact selections are not entirely known at this time, but Glass plans to include several movements of his Études for solo piano.

“When I perform or record my solo piano music, what you hear is what it sounds like when I’m alone and playing for myself,” says Glass.

ACF 2011 continues when the Symphony partners for a second time with Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) to present “Behind the Score: The Illusionist.” Glass provided the soundtrack for the 2006 mystery/thriller, “The Illusionist,” and this event features a screening of the film and panel discussion with the composer. The event takes place on Sunday, March 13, at 7 p.m. at the historic Regency Lido Theater in Newport Beach.

For tickets or more information on the Symphony’s ACF 2011 featuring Glass, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org/ACF; for tickets or more information on LBO’s Glass opera and events: call (562) 432-5934 or visit


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