On Feb. 18, The Boston Modern Orchestra Project organized an orchestral series, “Glass Works” at the New England Conservatory, dedicated to Phillip Glass. BMOP is a premiere orchestra in the United States renowned for its commitment to the growth and promotion of twentieth and twenty-first century orchestral music. The concert featured works by Phillip Glass along with the winner of this year’s BMOP-NEC Composition Competition, Benjamin Park. The highlight of the show was certainly Glass’ Movement II in the Tirol Concerto; Russian composer Anton Batagov delivered a breathtaking performance on the piano, doing complete justice to Glass’ work of art.
The first Glass performance was a Boston premiere of Tirol Concerto followed by Symphony No. 2. Each comprised three movements and was conducted by Artistic Director Gil Rose, who founded BMOP in 1996. While the ensemble in Tirol Concerto is unusually small compared to Glass’ other orchestral work, all three movements, especially the second, feature many of Glass’ signature gestures. The second movement began with the light humming of the violin, steadily progressing towards the piano entrance close to the two-minute mark. Batagov’s calm entrance with the piano immediately added a soulful depth to the music. As the pace increased, the music initiated a steady and rich evolution, creating a distinctly natural and enchanting aura. The skillful maneuvering of the high notes on the piano, essential to the second Movement, was delivered impeccably by Bagatov. What is most appealing about the second Movement is that along with Glass’ signature minimalistic structure, the music carries a mellow overtone and still manages to oscillate with a gentle, yet firm, melancholic energy. The steady wave of emotion can be felt surging to the heights and descending gracefully to the troughs, abandoning neither its elegance nor its energy. At no point did the movement lack substance. The first and third Movements in the Tirol Concerto did not feature the soothing quality of the second, but instead offered a livelier, playful and jazzy atmosphere. Batagov’s performance was once again remarkable; he was met with a thunderous applause after the piano faded out in the third Movement and an encore performance took place in which he played the piano solo for the film score of “The Hours,” also written by Glass.
Benjamin Park’s “The Dwarf Planets” turned out to be a somewhat unusual, but unique, style of composition. The first piece, “Pluto,” began with an intense—and somewhat frightening— resounding of the drums and carried on with an ominous tone. “Eris” was similar, except its chaotic nature was much more pronounced, with layers of sound creating an overwhelmingly tumultuous fire of music. It might not have been particularly easy to listen to but it certainly captured an essence of strife and mischief. The rest of the pieces were similarly brusque and sporadic, making it hard to make much sense of the structure and rhythm.
Overall, BMOP’s “Glass Works” succeeded not only as a decent concert, but also as a tribute to a twentieth century musical genius and a platform for the promotion of new musicians.
Staff writer Taimur Aziz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.