Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. In the early 1960s, Glass spent two years of intensive study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and while there, earned money by transcribing Ravi Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation. By 1974, Glass had a number of innovative projects, creating a large collection of new music for The Philip Glass Ensemble, and for the Mabou Mines Theater Company. This period culminated in Music in Twelve Parts, and the landmark opera, Einstein on the Beach for which he collaborated with Robert Wilson. Since Einstein, Glass has expanded his repertoire to include music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra, and film. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). In the past few years several new works were unveiled, including an opera on the death of Walt Disney, The Perfect American (co-commissioned by Teatro Real, Madrid and the English National Opera), a song cycle entitled, Ifé, written for Angelique Kidjo, a new touring production of Einstein and the publication of Glass’s memoir, ‘Words Without Music’, by Liveright Books. In May 2015, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, performed the world premiere of a double piano concerto Glass wrote for Katia and Marielle Labèque.
In November, the Washington National Opera premiered a revised version of Glass’s opera, Appomattox, created in collaboration with librettist Christopher Hampton. Glass celebrated his 80th birthday on January 31st, 2017 with the world premiere of his 11th Symphony. 80th birthday performances and celebrations will continue throughout 2017, including US Premieres of his operas The Perfect American and The Trial, and the World Premiere of String Quartet No. 8 and Piano Concerto No. 3. Glass will begin his tenure as the Carnegie Hall 2017-2018 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair.
The Violin Concerto No. 2 was composed for Robert McDuffie in the Summer and Autumn of 2009. The work was preceded by several years of occasional exchanges between Bobby and myself. He was interested in music that would serve as a companion piece to the Vivaldi “Four Seasons” concertos. I agreed to the idea of a four movement work but at the outset was not sure how that correspondence would work in practice – between the Vivaldi concertos and my own music. However, Bobby encouraged me to start with my composition and we would see in due time how it would relate to the very well-known original.
When the music was completed I sent it onto Bobby, who seemed to have quickly seen how the movements of my Concerto No. 2 related to the “Seasons”. Of course, Bobby’s interpretation, though similar to my own, proved to be also somewhat different. This struck me as an opportunity, then, for the listener to make his/her own interpretation. Therefore, there will be no instructions for the audience, no clues as to where Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall might appear in the new concerto – an interesting, though not worrisome, problem for the listener. After all, if Bobby and I are not in complete agreement, an independent interpretation can be tolerated and even welcomed. (The mathematical possibilities, or permutations, of the puzzle are in the order of 24.)
Apart from that, I would only add that, instead of the usual cadenza, I provided a number of solo pieces for Bobby – thinking that they could be played together as separate concert music when abstracted from the whole work. They appear in the concerto as a “prelude” to the first movement and three “songs” that precede each of the following three movements. – Philip Glass