Philip Glass: Symphony No.9
I have no real foundation on which to discuss the merits or shortcomings of symphonic musicI’m too busy contemplating Drake, Mike Posner, and Nicki Minajbut I have heard that the Ninth is considered “the cursed” symphony.
I think it begins with Beethoven, who died after completing his Ninth. Mahler, I’ve read, was so disturbed by the thought of a Ninth, that, after completing his Eight, he tried to dodge The Curse by writing Das Leid von der Erde. But, oh, The Curse can’t be so easily duped: Mahler finally completed a Ninth, but died while working on his Tenth. Gotcha! And we all know what happened to Bruckner. There are at least a dozen other examples, each disputable, surrounded by some level of uncertainty. But, hey, a curse is always good for the history buffs and storytellers. And, as much as anything else, The Curse is what got me interested in Philip Glass’s Ninth.
So, dear Curse, I thank you.
Even Glass, who in interviews seems downright unflappable and admirably self-assured, told the LA Times that The Curse was on his mind. Glass’s Ninth made its US debut, somewhat creepily, on the composer’s 75th birthdayJanuary 31, 2012at Carnegie Hall. Prior to the premiere, Glass had already wrapped up work on his Tenth, explaining, “You get nervous. These are silly thingsNinth Symphony, what kind of silly jinx is this? But I wasn’t going to wait to find out.”
While I have very little real experience with symphonic works, Glass’s Ninth, for better or worse, sounds like my idea of a symphony: It starts off quietly; builds in volume, intensity, and scale; incorporates swirling woodwinds, triumphant brass, stunning percussion; sounds dramatic, cinematic, threads dark with light; and, finally, ends like it began: quietly. Glass is whimsical, too. There are sudden stops, surprising twists, castanets!
I listened to it once all the way through and then over again. And, when I was too tired to listen anymore, I turned the volume on my integrated amp way down low and set my CD player to repeatpartly because I wanted to break-in the Tannoy Mercury V1 loudspeakers and partly because I was afraid of pressing Stop.