Philip Glass @ 80: Music with Changing Parts

Philip Glass

Philip Glass Ensemble
San Francisco Girls Chorus
Students from the SF Conservatory of Music

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 | 7:30pm

Davies Symphony HallVenue Information



GLASS: Music with Changing Parts
(90 minutes, no intermission)

Performance Sponsors

Thomas and Lily Beischer, Lead Sponsor
Patrick McCabe
Gerald and Keiko Horkan
Eve Niquette and Charles Pohl

This presentation is made possible, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About This Performance

As part of a year-long celebration of his 80th birthday, Philip Glass and The Philip Glass Ensemble return to SF Performances for a rarely heard performance of an iconic early work, Music with Changing Parts which includes young students from the SF Conservatory of Music as well as the SF Girls Chorus.

Performer Biographies

Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.

The operas—Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, Akhnaten, and The Voyage, among many others—play throughout the world’s leading houses, and rarely to an empty seat. Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning motion pictures such as The Hours and Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, while Koyaanisqatsi, his initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, may be the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since Fantasia. His associations, personal and professional, with leading rock, pop and world music artists date back to the 1960s, including the beginning of his collaborative relationship with artist Robert Wilson. Indeed, Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music—simultaneously.

He was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble—seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer.

The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops.

There has been nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; ten symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.

Stunning vocal range, flexibility, drama, and power are among the hallmarks of the 38-year-old San Francisco Girls Chorus, which is recognized as one of the world’s most widely known and respected vocal ensembles for youth. Under the direction of composer-performer Lisa Bielawa and conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, the SF Girls Chorus has achieved an incomparable sound that underscores the unique clarity and force of impeccably trained treble voices fused with expressiveness and drama. As a result, the Chorus vibrantly performs 1,000 years of choral masterworks from plainchant to the most challenging and nuanced contemporary works created expressly for them in programs that are as intelligently designed as they are enjoyable and revelatory to experience.

A leading voice on the Bay Area and national music scenes, the Chorus has produced award-winning concerts, recordings and tours; empowered young women in music and other fields, enhanced and expanded the field of music for treble voices and set the international standard for the highest level of performance and education.

The San Francisco Girls Chorus’ level of training, performance, quality, range, and leadership in commissioning music for treble voices are lauded by musicians, critics, and audiences. The Chorus has been awarded the music industry’s highest honors including five Grammy Awards and recognition for programming and highest artistic standards from ASCAP, Chorus America and others.

Frequent collaborator, San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas says, “The San Francisco Girls Chorus is a treasure. Their training, musicality, and vibrant spirit are evident whenever they perform. I have enjoyed our long association and look forward to many years of collaboration.”

The Chorus’ 30th Anniversary season, 2008–09, culminated in a performance in President Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony, and a debut concert at Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center. Subsequent seasons have featured tours to Cuba, Berlin, Nordic countries, the Oregon Bach Festival and Britt Festival in Ashland and Jacksonville, and others. The 2015–16 season will featured performances of Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony, “Ode to Joy”, with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, Venezuela’s celebrated Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and other guest artists at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. The Chorus ended its triumphant 2016–17 season with a performance with the New York Philharmonic’s Biennial Festival of New Music, at Lincoln Center. This season, the Chorus will perform with KRONOS Quartet, and at the SHIFT Festival of New Music at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Founded in 1978, the San Francisco Girls Chorus quickly became a regional center for choral music education and performance for girls and young women ages 5–18. Hundreds of singers from 46 Bay Area cities participate in this internationally recognized program, deemed “a model in the country for training girls’ voices” by the California Arts Council. The organization consists of a professional-level performance, recording, and touring ensemble; the four-level Chorus School training program; and a Preparatory Chorus for 5-7 year olds.

Philip Glass—Music with Changing Parts