Came to this after reading a scathing review of Valentina Lisitsa’s …Plays Philip Glass from yesteryear, which took a lot of issue with her cover of “How Now” (italics mine): “her hapless attempt to sustain the 30-minute generative structure of Glass’s 1968 “How Now” – one of his trail-blazing, early compositions – can be nobody’s idea of good enough. By way of comparison, released on Orange Mountain Music in 2013 came an archival glimpse of Glass’s own premiere performance; his attack, on electric organ, stabs rather than tickles, and in his hands the music steams ahead with the stuttering elegance of a tumble dryer. Lisitsa’s performance in contrast lacks structural impetus for the simple reason that everything has mistakenly been forced into a tentative middle-ground: Philip Glass deserves better.” Articulate, and fair: Lisitsa’s “How Now” just fades into the background despite being one of two de facto centerpieces of that abundant (to a fault) double album. But that’s mostly due to the sonic difference between staccato organ and legato piano.
In fewer words, I’m not a big fan of this release, which, the label advertises, is the first all-Glass concert ever and the oldest recording of Philip Glass. I’m a much bigger fan of Glass as he streamlined his approach and started merging pop with classical music, achieving, in addition to influence and legacy, richer expression, colours, dynamics, melodies. He also got more ambitious too, not just by showing evolution in fast-forward, but from an arrangement-perspective. On the second track, it’s performed by Dorothy Pixley-Rothschild, played on violin (and, as I understand it, done in a visually appealing way by making her walk around to read the appropriate sheet music). It’s sweeter, mostly due to the sonic difference between staccato organ and legato strings; shorter too.
I’ll let Philip Glass close this one out: “The difference between the little pieces and the big pieces[:] With some of the big pieces, it’s a lot of musical running around, whereas the little pieces, you can say everything you want to say.”