Philip Glass (courtesy of San Francisco Performances)
Composer Philip Glass was born on January 31, 1937; and much of the year following his 80th birthday has involved worldwide celebration of the occasion. Indeed, here in San Francisco that celebration will spill over beyond the end of this month. Most significantly, San Francisco Performances (SFP) has scheduled two events to honor Glass during the month of February.
The first of these will take place two days after Glass turns 81. On Playing Glass will be a recital that will bring the Kronos Quartet together with pianist Timo Andres. Readers may recall that Andres was one of the two pianists that joined Glass for a performance of his complete set of twenty piano etudes, which SFP presented in its Special Events series in March of 2015. (The other pianist was Maki Namekawa, who had recorded all of the etudes for Orange Mountain Music.) Kronos’ relationship with Glass goes back even further, since his “Company” string quartet was released in August of 1986 on the group’s very first recording for Nonesuch, which was entitled simply Kronos Quartet.
This recital will be supplemented with a group discussion about the experiences of both working with Glass and playing his music. Andres will again play selections from the piano etudes. Kronos, in turn, will play selected movements from all of the quartets that Glass has composed, of which “Company,” originally composed in 1983 for a monodrama staging of a text by Samuel Beckett of the same name, was the second.
This performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 2. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, whose entrance is the main entrance to the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, located on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The venue is excellent for public transportation, since that corner has Muni bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel. Ticket prices are $45 for premium seating in the Orchestra and the front and center of the Dress Circle, $35 for the Side Boxes, the center rear of the Dress Circle, and the remainder of the Orchestra, and $25 for the remainder of the Dress Circle and the Balcony. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.
The “main event” of the month, however, will be a concert entitled Philip Glass @ 80. The program will consist of a single composition, “Music with Changing Parts.” This was probably Glass’ first evening-length work (lasting about 90 minutes). He composed it after his first major public concert, which took place at the Guggenheim Museum in January of 1970. Each of the three pieces on that program was about twenty minutes long and was based on a process that involved the interplay of repetition and change. (Those familiar with this site should by now be aware that Glass has never particularly like the word “minimalism,” preferring instead to call pieces like these “music with repetitive structures.”)
Like the pieces played at the Guggenheim, “Music with Changing Parts” was written for the composer’s own Philip Glass Ensemble, which was relatively modest in its size (about half a dozen members). However, in the interest of making Philip Glass @ 80 a truly memorable and celebratory occasion, SFP has chosen to take an approach that comes close to involving a “cast of thousands.” Current membership of the Philip Glass Ensemble still involves only eleven performers, including Glass himself on keyboards and Michael Riesman conducting from a keyboard. For this performance, however, they will be joined by the members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus (over 40 of them) and both brass and woodwind students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. All of these players will have recently returned from New York, where this same approach to performing “Music with Changing Parts” will have been given at Carnegie Hall on February 16.
The performance in San Francisco will take place in Davies Symphony Hall, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20. Davies is a large space, so prices will range from premium seating (Loge, Center Orchestra, and boxes at both Orchestra and Loge level) at $120 through $100, $85, $75, and $50 down to unreserved Center Terrace seating for $45. The main entrance to Davies is through the Box Office Lobby, whose doors are on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. Tickets may again be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.