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Einstein on the Beach

Philip Glass joins Donald Macleod to discuss his 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach, which is regarded as one of the most significant of the 20th century.

Donald Macleod continues the week of exclusive interviews with the composer Philip Glass, first broadcast to mark the composer's 75th birthday in 2012.

Philip Glass's music has captured the popular imagination - and come to soundtrack our lives - in a way almost unthinkable for a contemporary composer. Yet Glass also divides opinion like no other figure in contemporary music. A one-time "enfant terrible" of the New York arts scene of the 60s and 70s - whose simple, seemingly endless repetitions would stretch for hours and enrage critics - Glass has long since swapped hardline minimalism for a comfy, lushly Romantic sound...and alienated many of his former fans. Disarmingly frank, witty and engaging, Philip Glass has always wryly put aside criticism of his commercial success. All this week on Composer Of The Week, Donald Macleod talks to him about his extraordinary life in music, with a playlist that encompasses his entire career.

Glass's landmark work "Einstein On The Beach" (1976) dominates today's episode, as the composer describes how this acclaimed piece of music theatre - part conceptual art piece, part opera - came to be composed, in collaboration with the director Robert Wilson. Donald Macleod discusses the work's troubled genesis and surreal scenario - and how from its humble beginnings it's come to be regarded as one of the most significant operas of the 20th century.

We'll also hear a rare piece of film music from the late 1970s, released amongst pop albums on an art-rock record label (!), before the first instalment of the composer's recent "Concerto Project" - a sequence eight works for solo instrument and orchestra from the past decade.

Etoile Polaire (Etoile Polaire)
Philip Glass (keyboards)
Dickie Landry (saxophones, flute)
Joan La Barbara, Gene Rickard (voices)

Knee 1 (Einstein On The Beach)
Philip Glass Ensemble; Michael Riesman (conductor)

Knee Play 3, Trial 2, Prison, Knee Play 4 (Einstein On The Beach)
Philip Glass Ensemble; Michael Riesman (conductor)

Movement II (Concerto for Cello and Orchestra no.1)
Wendy Sutter (cello)
Orchestra of the Americas; Dante Anzolini (conductor)

River Run (Etoile Polaire)
Philip Glass (keyboards)
Dickie Landry (saxophones, flute)
Joan La Barbara, Gene Rickard (voices).

1 hour

Music Played

  • Philip Glass

    Concerto for cello and orchestra

    Conductor: Dante Anzolini. Orchestra: YOA Orchestra of the Americas. Performer: Wendy Sutter.
    • ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC : OMM-0076.
    • ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC.
    • 3.
  • Philip Glass

    Einstein on the beach - opera

    Ensemble: Philip Glass Ensemble. Conductor: Michael Riesman.
    • ELEKTRA NONESUCH: 7559-79323-2.
    • ELEKTRA NONESUCH.
    • 1.
  • Philip Glass & Richard Landry

    North star - music for the film

    Singer: Joan La Barbara.
    • NONESUCH : 4245082.
    • NONESUCH.
    • 6.
  • Philip Glass & Richard Landry

    North star - music for the film

    Ensemble: Philip Glass Ensemble. Singer: Joan La Barbara.
    • NONESUCH : 4245082.
    • NONESUCH.
    • 5.

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Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.