World-renowned composer Philip Glass to be at the Lied Center for 'A Celebration of Philip Glass'

Paul Barnes (left) and Philip Glass review the score for "Annunciation." Photo by Peter Barnes.
Paul Barnes (left) and Philip Glass review the score for "Annunciation." Photo by Peter Barnes.

World-renowned composer Philip Glass to be at the Lied Center for 'A Celebration of Philip Glass'

calendar icon11 Apr 2018    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--“A Celebration of Philip Glass” will take place on Tuesday, April 17 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. The event is the culmination of a 24-year friendship between Marguerite Scribante Professor of Piano Paul Barnes and world-renowned composer Philip Glass.

“This one, special night is going to be the culmination of our entire professional relationship,” Barnes said.

The Lied Center is partnering with the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts to present the concert, which will feature the world premiere of Glass’s new piano quintet “Annunciation.” The quintet, completed by the composer in February, is based on a Greek Orthodox communion hymn for the Feast of Annunciation and will be performed by Barnes and the Chiara String Quartet.

The Chiara String Quartet concludes its tenure as Hixson-Lied Artists-in-Residence at the Glenn Korff School of Music with this concert. The group will end full-time work performing together in September 2018. Although the members of the group are each planning solo performance and teaching careers moving forward, the group plans to reunite regularly for special projects and performance opportunities.

“Annunciation” was commissioned by The Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation, Mike and Amber Kutayli, Rhonda Seacrest and the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

The concert will also feature the vocal ensemble Cappella Romana performing ancient Byzantine chant and a performance of Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (After Lewis and Clark) featuring Native American flute player Ron Warren and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Professor Tyler White. Piano Concerto No. 2 had its premiere at the Lied Center in 2004 as part of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration.  

Also on the program will be Glass’s unpublished piano and violin work “Pendulum” with Hyeyung Yoon and Paul Barnes as well as Glass’s choral work “Father Death Blues” sung by the University Singers under the direction of Peter Eklund.

Glass will be in attendance for the concert, as well as two rehearsals the day before. There will be a dress rehearsal of the piano concerto at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 16 in Kimball Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public. That will be followed later by a dress rehearsal for the piano quintet that is open only to Glenn Korff School of Music piano, strings, and composition faculty and students.

“[Glass] has been so generous to me with his time, and the fact that he’s making himself available here in Lincoln—and only in Lincoln—I think that is a wonderful testament to his generosity as a composer and as a musician. It will be great,” Barnes said.

Glass will hear the piece for the first time at the rehearsal on April 16, and Barnes said he and the Chiara Quartet are prepared for any changes.

“Based on our first rehearsal, I don’t think he will have to do any major revisions,” Barnes said. “But you never know. It’s his first time hearing it, and he’s a very creative guy, so he may come up with all kinds of interesting ideas, and yes, we are ready to implement anything for the world premiere the next day. It’s exciting, isn’t it?”

Glass has composed more than 20 operas, large and small; more than 10 symphonies; two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble. He has been nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Original Score for “Kundun” (1997), “The Hours” (2002) and “Notes on a Scandal” (2006).
Barnes has been collaborating with Glass since they first met in 1995, and Barnes said “Annunciation” has its origins in one of their earliest conversations.

“I remember hearing the score that he wrote to the Martin Scorsese film, ‘Kundun,’” he said. “It didn’t win, but I still remember the opening of that, and it starts out with this giant drone, and I immediately thought, ‘Oh my God, that sounds like Byzantine chant,’ and so he and I had this conversation about the relationship between the Buddhist and byzantine chant. This piano quintet is the musical outcome of that conversation.”  

Barnes also serves as head chanter at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lincoln.

“Annunciation” is in two parts. From the program notes, “Part One opens with a meditative chromatic chord progression, which eventually leads to the first entrance of the chant first stated in the piano. . . . Part Two is a poignant musical meditation on Part One, revealing Glass’s innate ability to connect the transcendental ethos of the original chant with his own spacious approach to musical time.”

“It’s so interesting what he does with the second part because there’s no direct quotation from the chant, but he takes an idea that he developed in the first movement derived from the first three notes of the chant, and then uses that as the basis for this very meditative, slow second movement all the way through,” Barnes said. “And there’s some very interesting things rhythmically that I’ve never seen him do before and some unbelievably beautiful chords as well. The piece ends with a virtuoso coda that’s going to be a lot of fun to play.”

Barnes retains exclusive rights to the piece for two years following the premiere on April 17.

“If this piece is ever played, I will be the pianist playing it for the next two years until April 17, 2020,” Barnes said.

Following the premiere in Lincoln, Barnes and the Chiara String Quartet will be performing the piece in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 22 and then New York City on May 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Lincoln premiere on April 17 is the only concert that will feature Glass in attendance.

Barnes said the concert will be a truly unique event and is not to be missed.

“First of all, Philip Glass will be right there in the front row,” he said. “It’s such an eclectic night having Cappella Romana here, so you have the world’s authority on Byzantine chant with Alexander Lingas, the director, and they will be singing the actual hymn upon which  Philip based the Quintet.  And those in the audience will be the first humans to hear a performance of the quintet. And then for those Nebraskans who remember the Lewis and Clark concerto 14 years ago, it’s the culmination of 24 years of working with this amazing composer. Who wouldn’t want to be there for that?”

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Sponsors for this event include:  The Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation, Mike and Amber Kutayli, Rhonda Seacrest, Margaret and Greg Sutton, Clyde and Susan Meckel, Robert and Charlene Gondring, Ron Hull, Gary Moulton, Larry Ruth, Roger Wehrbein and The Oven.