Next-day thoughts on Philip Glass' 'Overture for 2012'
It seems the composer took the term "overture" at its most literal, fashioning a brief curtain-raiser of about five minutes.
The Baltimore and Toronto symphonies were expecting something closer to 12 (can they get a partial refund of the commission?).
I've heard from folks disappointed at how quickly the Glass piece flashed by. I, too, was surprised by the brevity, but, mostly, in ...
Based on a single hearing (requests for an advance look at the score or admission to rehearsal were denied), I wouldn't put "Overture for 2012" on a par with that bravura Adams work. But the two items do have in common a persistent rhythmic drive and vivid orchestration, with similarities especially in the percussion batteries employed.
The trademark harmonic motion between a limited number of chords defines the overture as Glass-y; same for the way those chords are outlined. As for structure, the composer relies on one of the oldest tricks in the book -- a long, gradual crescendo -- to create tension in the last half or so of the score, when a cool, brassy scale-like theme emerges amid increasingly prismatic, kinetic swirls.
There's an effective uplift to the music, which the BSO delivered with considerable flourish Sunday night, expertly guided by Marin Alsop.
I wouldn't mind a few more thematic ideas or changes of mood in the score, but the richness of sound and the spirit of the pulse certainly fit the festive nature of the occasion.
While the premiere provided a good opportunity for folks in Baltimore to remember one of the city's most illustrious sons, the concert also reminded me that the BSO has yet to perform something really big and weighty by Glass. I hope Alsop will program a symphony or concerto before long.
Even better, how about a concert version of one of the operas? I fear folks will be ice-skating on the Inner Harbor in July before we see "Satyagraha" staged at the Lyric.
BALTIMORE SUN STAFF PHOTO BY ALGERINA PERNA