Pianist Bruce Levingston has had a long and celebrated association with Philip Glass and his music. In 2004, the composer wrote his musical tribute to the artist Chuck Close especially for Levingston who premiered the work at New York City’s Lincoln Center. The following year, Glass joined Levingston in the same venue for a series of piano duos in a concert that also featured Levingston’s longtime friend and Chelsea Hotel neighbor actor Ethan Hawke. At that concert, Levingston and Hawke performed Glass’s Wichita Vortex Sutra that includes a narration of the Allen Ginsberg poem that inspired the work. Glass and Ginsberg had performed and recorded it themselves, but the composer enthusiastically blessed this performance by a new generation of artists. Glass, Hawke and Levingston then together performed the finale of Einstein on the Beach. Glass later invited Levingston to join him in premiering his complete Études at The Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City in 2014.
Now this extraordinary group of artists is reunited in this Sono Luminus release of Bruce Levingston’s new album Dreaming Awake. Levingston, an acclaimed concert pianist and recording artist whose last album, Heavy Sleep (DSL-92183), was named one the “Best Recordings of the Year” by The New York Times, pays tribute to Philip Glass with an exploration of his music that spans the length of the composer’s career. This release includes the world premiere recording of The Illusionist Suite, ten of the composer’s dramatic and deeply moving Études, as well as the richly colored tone poems Dreaming Awake, Metamorphosis No. 2, and Wichita Vortex Sutra featuring Ethan Hawke as guest artist performing the Allen Ginsberg poem with Bruce Levingston.
Total time: 01:49:32
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Sono Luminus Studios
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|Release Date||October 7, 2016|
WQXR New York Public Radio
“Bruce Levingston, no stranger to the music of Philip Glass, has finally issued an in-depth, two-album survey of Glass’s piano music, and the result is a surprisingly passionate and spontaneous portrait of the composer. Dreaming Awake (Sono Luminus) is a boldly individual approach to the keyboard works of an American master.
Interpreting the piano music of Glass offers a unique dilemma to the pianist. The construction of the music is often severe and mathematical, the materials lucid to the point of total transparency in order to better showcase the clockwork operation of the rhythms. Instead of plunging forward through a series of contrasting episodes, the music coolly repeats its cadences as if displaying itself in a mirror, allowing the listener to examine the same material from multiple angles.
But at the same time, the harmonic language of the music is undeniably steeped in affect. While the music’s transparency and poise pull back towards restraint, the substance of those cadences push forward into warm-hearted sentiment. Should the pianist treat the score like a strict MIDI grid, metronomically obeying every rhythm in order to heighten the transparency of the music? Or should the performer take a cue from those ecstatic harmonies?
From the almost impulsive opening of this record, those first few notes of Glass’s magnificently subtle Etude No. 2, it becomes clear that Levingston has given himself over to feeling. This is Glass the Romantic.
In addition to a generous helping of the Etudes, arguably the composer’s most substantial solo works, Levingston also offers the rarer title track, his own arrangement of Glass’s tuneful film music for The Illusionist, and the earlier Allen Ginsberg hymn Wichita Vortex Sutra.
Even Levingston’s stellar choice of collaborator fits the bill. Instead of sampling Ginsberg’s own delightfully idiosyncratic reading of “Wichita,” Levingston recruits thespian Ethan Hawke, Hollywood’s Gen-X embodiment of Romanticism, and Hawke’s breathless delivery is absolutely of a piece with the almost cinematic heroics of Levingston’s vision for these path breaking works.”
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