Jonny Greenwood, Glass And Ligeti: An Evening Of Premieres And A Rarity An exciting premiere of music by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, Philip Glass' take on David Bowie and Brian Eno, and finger-shredding sounds from Gyorgy Ligeti.

Brad Lubman, the Wordless Music Orchestra, and Signal Ensemble play live on May 20, 2011 at New York's Society for Ethical Culture. Richie Clarke/courtesy of the artists hide caption

toggle caption
Richie Clarke/courtesy of the artists

Brad Lubman, the Wordless Music Orchestra, and Signal Ensemble play live on May 20, 2011 at New York's Society for Ethical Culture.

Richie Clarke/courtesy of the artists

Classics in Concert

Jonny Greenwood, Glass And Ligeti: An Evening Of Premieres And A RarityQ2

Jonny Greenwood, Glass And Ligeti: An Evening Of Premieres And A Rarity

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136622314/136648530" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

It sounded like the future: rock and classical crossed and combined in a May 20, 2011 concert at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The evening of premieres and rarely heard works by Jonny Greenwood, Philip Glass and Gyorgy Ligeti was presented by New York's new-music service Q2

.

Conductor Brad Lubman led the Wordless Music Orchestra, whose 55 members included the JACK Quartet and players from Alarm Will Sound, the Signal Ensemble and quite a few other regulars in New York's new-music community.

Surprisingly enough, this concert was the New York premiere of Glass' "Heroes" Symphony, a 1996 piece inspired by David Bowie and Brian Eno's 1977 album Heroes. (On YouTube, you can even get an inside-the-orchestra experience of the premiere.)

There's the expected punch of Glass' churning rhythms juxtaposed to some liquid brass and wind lines, but Lubman and his players brought out some real surprises, including some very beautifully and gracefully shaped ostinati figures — so central to Glass' hallmark style, but here much more persuasive than they often are in other performances. Tucked in the middle of the piece is the sinuous "Abdulmajid," which takes a Bowie song (honoring his wife, Iman, whose last name provides the title of this movement) into frankly and unapologetically Orientalized terrain.

The centerpiece of the evening was the U.S. premiere of Greenwood's Doghouse for orchestra and string trio (with violinist Courtney Orlando, violist John Richards and cellist Lauren Radnofsky). While Greenwood is undoubtedly best known as the guitarist (as well as keyboards player and sampler master) for Radiohead and one of the band's songwriters, he was also a violist all the way through high school, and is an unabashed fan of contemporary classical music. One of Greenwood's favorite composers is Ligeti, and so Ligeti's moody and insanely challenging Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments, played by the Signal Ensemble, provided the perfect lead-in to Doghouse. (As Q2 host Nadia Sirota noted in her live commentary, the third movement of the Ligeti has been known to make string players quite literally bleed.)

Greenwood has already adapted Doghouse for Anh Hung Tran's 2010 film Norwegian Wood (which is in turn based on Haruki Murakami's best-selling novel of the same name), just as his 2005 Popcorn Superhet Receiver — also premiered by Wordless Music — was transformed into the score for the Oscar-winning film There Will Be Blood. As with so much of Glass' output, there's something innately cinematic about Greenwood's work, as well as a regal self-containment that evokes his hero Ligeti and is matched with a thrillingly dark tension.

The Society for Ethical Culture is only an occasional concert venue, but I can't help but be struck by the words suspended over the stage: "The place where people seek to meet the highest is holy ground." Perhaps that sentiment's a little too earnest for jaded downtown musicians, but what a perfect idea to serve as the backdrop for a concert so rich with ideas and emotions.

[+] read more[-] less
Q2

More From Classical

Devonté Hynes and Philip Glass met in Hynes' Chinatown loft for a conversation on a rainy spring day. Mito Habe-Evans/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mito Habe-Evans/NPR

'When You Gonna Get A Real Job?': Philip Glass And Devonté Hynes Compare Notes

Watch the two musicians, nearly 50 years apart in age, talk about the pains of striking out on your own, the pulse of New York, and the role of the artist today. Plus about a hundred other ideas.

Penguin Cafe performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 2, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Penguin Cafe

Penguin Cafe folds in sounds from around the world and throughout music history — Africa, Kraftwerk, Brazil and Franz Schubert.

Composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir revised her piece Aura especially for The Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. David Holechek hide caption

toggle caption David Holechek

Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Volcanic Transmissions

As members of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet bow their vibraphones, brush their gongs and message their bass drums, the composer's evocative music oozes from blackness.

Ludovico Einaudi, performing live for KCRW. Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW hide caption

toggle caption Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW

Ludovico Einaudi, 'Petricor' (Live)

KCRW

Watch the pianist and composer, joined by a full band, in a stunning live performance for KCRW.

Opera singer Joyce DiDonato created this video to go with her new album, In War and Peace: Harmony through Music. Warner Classics hide caption

toggle caption Warner Classics

In Chaotic Times, A Singer's Plea For Freedom

Opera star Joyce DiDonato does more than sing — she lends her voice to social causes. Watch her new video, a haunting depiction of a woman trapped in conflict.

Genard Ptah Blair dances to Carolina Eyck's music in a magical video directed by Sonia Malfa. Sonia Malfa hide caption

toggle caption Sonia Malfa

Get Lost In Carolina Eyck's Ethereal Garden

A magical landscape, the sounds of a slithery theremin and one elastic dancer offer an oasis of tranquility in a hectic world.

Gustavo Dudamel led the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra to open the new season of concerts at Carnegie Hall Thursday, Oct. 6. Chris Lee/Carnegie Hall hide caption

toggle caption Chris Lee/Carnegie Hall

Gustavo Dudamel Opens Carnegie Hall Season With 'The Rite Of Spring'

WQXR radio

The charismatic conductor first heard Stravinsky's rambunctious music when he was just 8. Watch him lead the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela live on Thursday night.

A still from Maya Beiser's "Air" video. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

First Watch: Maya Beiser, 'Air'

In a new video, the cellist plays with time and memory, turning back the clock to when she first heard J.S. Bach's music on a scratchy old LP. It remains, she says, a timeless lodestar for her art.

Yuja Wang played a demanding program at Carnegie Hall, topped by four encores. Ebru Yildiz/for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ebru Yildiz/for NPR

Yuja Wang Plays Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Hear one of today's most charismatic pianists perform music with deep psychological — and physical — dimensions by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms.

Yuja Wang Plays Carnegie Hall

Audio is no longer available
Back To Top