Last night, a bunch of Glassholes (including Paul Simon, who was spotted ducking into the stage entrance) descended on Carnegie Hall to celebrate the birthday of East Village composer and living legend Philip Glass (yes, that guy on the wall of the 2nd Avenue subway station). Though Glass turned 80 yesterday, the audience was the one getting the gifts in the form of three pieces performed by the Bruckner Orchester Linz, the esteemed Austrian outfit that has premiered more of the Glass’s symphonies than anyone else.
On this occasion, they were unveiling the composer’s 11th. But before that, conductor Dennis Russell Davies acknowledged Glass, who was sitting up in the first tier, and served up the evening’s appetizers: the New York premiere of “Days and Nights in Rocinha,” a rarely performed tribute to the Brazilian favela and its samba music; and a trio of songs sung by Angelique Kidjo, the West African diva who is currently working on an interpretation of the Talking Heads album Remain in the Light.
Kidjo belted out Ifé: Three Yoruba Songs, a trio of Yoruban-language songs, composed by Glass, based on origin-myth poems. At times Kidjo’s strident, almost jazzy vocals strayed from Glass’s frenetic score as starkly as her colorful garb contrasted with the sea of penguin suits behind her. Somehow, though, it all came together. The guy in front of me literally did a fist pump in the air as the song “Oshumare” came to a thundering close with the words “I praise you, Rainbow Serpent.”
The highlight of the night was, of course, Symphony No. 11. The 40-minute opus started with a shimmering, flying-over-rooftops theme resonant of one of Glass’s more memorable film scores. Glass had promised in at least one interview that this work would be more percussive, and indeed there were galloping beats straight out of a spaghetti western. At the end of the three movements (the second one dreamy and ethereal, the third veering more into march territory), the crowd bolted up into a standing ovation of nearly 7 minutes and Glass came out three times to take bows with the beatific conductor.
If you missed it all, don’t worry. There are more chances coming up to celebrate the octave-happy octogenarian.
Feb. 24, March 5 and 12 at National Sawdust, 80 N. 6th St., Williamsburg; tickets $35.
Institutions around the land are celebrating Glass’s 80th birthday this year, and it makes sense that Williamsburg’s new concert hall would carry the torch in his home town. After all, Glass is on the board of directors. On Feb. 24, Maki Namekawa will perform Glass’s complete solo piano “Etudes,” and March 5, Robert Sirota will host a performance of music of Glass, his fellow downtown denizen John Zorn, and Paola Prestini, to be preceded by a discussion with the composers. And on March 12, Glass will be joined by griot and kora player Foday Musa Suso, a collaborator on the Powaqqatsi soundtrack and a regular at Glass’s Tibet House concerts.
Tibet House US 30th Anniversary Concert
March 16, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave, Midtown; tickets $35-$200.
Last year at this annual fundraiser hosted by Glass, Iggy Pop blew everyone away by reading poems and covering Bowie. This year Iggy is back along with fellow fixtures Laurie Anderson and Patti Smith (you’ll remember them sharing the stage with Miley Cyrus and Debbie Harry in 2015). New Order members Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman are also on the bill, so don’t be surprised if Glass’s 80th birthday is marked with some “Age of Consent.”
La Belle et la Bête: Philip Glass Ensemble
April 20, 8pm at Town Hall, 123 W 43rd St, Midtown; tickets $55-$85.
This rare performance of Glass’s 1994 work will be preceded by a discussion between the composer and filmmaker Errol Morris, who famously used Glass’s music in his documentary Thin Blue Line (Morris and others recently shared some memories for NPR’s Philip Glass Week). Presumably Glass will explain what possessed him to take French avant-garde director’s 1940s beauty-and-the-beast tale, La Belle et la Bête, strip it of its soundtrack, and then replace it with his own score and sung dialogue. After that, you’ll be able to watch as the pianist and his ensemble meticulously perform the 92-minute opera in synch with the film.
Philip Glass with Paul Holdengräber: A Mind of Music
June 15, 7pm, at Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 476 Fifth Avenue; tickets $10 (students) to $40.
Glass has lately done his share of interviews with the New York Times, The Guardian, and others. But why not join the man in the flash as he joins NYPL honcho Paul Holdengräber for a look back on his career. Bring a flask so you can do a shot every time Glass explains why his music isn’t minimalism.
Philip Glass: The 2017-2018 Richard and Barbara Debs Composers’ Chair
Dec. 8, 2017 through April 21, 2018 at Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave, Midtown; tickets not yet on sale.
If you missed last night’s performance of Days and Nights in Rocinha, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra will be taking a crack at it a little over a year from now, when Glass occupies the composers’ chair previously occupied by Steve Reich. As part of the series, the American Composers Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony (featuring sitar player Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi) and others will be performing Glass’s music. Don’t miss Glass collaborator Nico Muhly playing with Laurie Anderson and others on Feb. 8, 2018, and Glass himself, with his ensemble, performing a classic, “Music with Changing Parts.”