Lincoln celebrated Philip Glass at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday night, presenting a concert of five Glass works primarily performed by Lincoln musicians with the renowned composer in attendance.
At its center was pianist Paul Barnes, a 23-year Glass collaborator, who performed on four of the five pieces, from the dynamic, fast-switching “Pendulum for Violin and Piano,” with violinist Hyeyung Yoon to his solo encore of the finale from Glass’s 1979 opera “Satyagraha.”
The concert’s centerpiece was the world premiere of “Annunciation,” Glass’s first piano quintet, written for Barnes and performed with the Chiara String Quartet in its final Lincoln performance.
Based on a byzantine communion hymn from the Greek Orthodox church, “Annunciation” opened with a section that worked through variations on the hymn’s central theme — which had been placed in the minds of the audience by Cappella Romana, an Portland, Oregon, vocal chamber ensemble that chanted four hymns to open the program.
It then moved into its meditative second half, with Barnes’ striking octave melody over Glassian flowing eighth note from violinist Rebecca Fischer and cellist Gregory Beaver. Touchingly played by Barnes and the quintet, which is leaving with a bravura performance, “Annunciation” is a romantic, late-period Glass masterwork.
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The second half of the concert belonged to University of Nebraska-Lincoln music students.
It opened with a lovely version of “Father Death Blues” by the University Singers. The piece utilizes an Allen Ginsberg poem that is a meditation on death, set in a reverent, distinctive choral arrangement by Glass and was beautifully sung by the large choir.
Then the UNL Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tyler White, brought Glass’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 ‘After Lewis and Clark’” back to the Lied stage, where it premiered in 2004.
Confidently performed by the orchestra, the concerto was highlighted by the haunting Native American flute of Ron Warren and Barnes’ emotional cadenza.
Glass, who came to the stage after the piano quintet and the concerto, received standing ovations from the audience of more than 1,000 that joined in the celebration of the composer and his music — which Tuesday evening truly was.