Philip Glass Residency at SFJAZZ

Philip Glass – Photo © Steve Pyke – courtesy SFJAZZ

As the SFJAZZ Summer Sessions continue to sizzle, this week brings to San Francisco a particularly interesting residency – that of Philip Glass – the first composer with a repertoire which has spanned the opera house, the concert hall and the jazz scene, as well as the worlds of film and dance – simultaneously. And unsurprisingly, this extraordinarily versatile artist brings to SFJAZZ an eclectic range of fellow artists who have each made their mark in the classical, jazz and/or contemporary traditions.

Baltimore-born and raised, Glass studied initially at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School, and in Aspen – with 20th century French composer Darius Milhaud. In Paris he studied further under the distinguished Nadia Boulanger – whose pupils included Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones – and Glass also worked closely with sitar virtuoso and composer, Ravi Shankar.

Returning to New York in 1967, he established the Philip Glass Ensemble – a group of seven musicians with whom he still performs his own distinctive style of music – which he describes as “music with repetitive structures”. Glass has collaborated with names such as Yo-Yo Ma, Doris Lessing, Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, David Bowie and Twyla Tharp – and even inspired choreographer Jerome Robbins to create a work for New York City Ballet. Entitled Glass Pieces, it’s set, as the name implies, to three of his compositions. Glass has composed more than twenty operas and ten symphonies, works for saxophone, film soundtracks, and concertos for piano, violin and timpani. Having recently celebrated his 80th anniversary concert season, he is still presenting lectures, workshops and solo piano performances the world over.

Harpist Lavinia Meijer might be better known to some as a classical artist, having appeared with ensembles such as the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. She has recorded works by Debussy, Satie and Ravel, and also made transcriptions of some of Philip Glass’ works for harp. Her latest recording, The Glass Effect, was released to celebrate his 80th birthday, and on it, Lavinia Meijer has collaborated with a number of different composers, each creating, as she says, “their own spectrum of sounds and shapes based on the works of Philip Glass”.

Also joining Philip Glass for his first two performances at SFJAZZ is Israeli-American cellist Matt Haimovitz. Classically trained, Haimovitz first appeared at Carnegie Hall at the age of 13, and won an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Gradually he realized that there simply weren’t enough young people attending his concerts, so he took the decision to relinquish the formality of the concert hall in favor of the kind of places that young people did frequent – coffee houses, bars, nightclubs and the like – which in 2005 won him the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award. In 2012, he performed the premier of Philip Glass’ Cello Concerto No 2 Naqoyqatsi.

Lavinia Meijer and Matt Haimovitz appear with Philip Glass in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ on July 19 and 20. For more information and tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Philips Glass’ next guests are three pianists – Russian pianist and composer Anton Batagov, jazz pianist Aaron Diehl, and Taiwanese keyboardist Jenny Lin.

Regarded as one of the most influential Russian composers and performers of our time, Anton Batagov initially studied at the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and was a 1986 prizewinner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition. Batagov is as familiar with the music of Bach, Schubert, Beethoven, Messiaen and Ravel, as with composers of the Russian avant-garde, and has composed several film soundtracks, and over 3,000 tunes for the major Russian TV channels. He is credited with having fundamentally changed the character of new Russian music – bringing contemporary classics to the world of television music, and introducing the music of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Steve Reich and Philip Glass to Russian audiences.

Aaron Diehl is a classically trained pianist and composer, who – over the past 15 years – has made a significant impression on the world of jazz. Described as “a staple of the jazz scene in New York since 2007”, he has been both pianist and musical director for vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, and – according to the New York Daily News – is “a rising star of jazz piano” with “an individual talent so huge that one day he may extend the jazz tradition”. He was the 2011 winner of the American Pianists Association’s Cole Porter Fellowship, has toured Europe with the Wynton Marsalis Septet, and has recently turned his attention to modern classical works, performing the Gershwin Piano Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic at its gala opening of the 2016-17 season, prompting the New York Times to comment: “… it’s hard to imagine that Gershwin would not have been impressed”.

Described as “dynamic” by the New York Times, pianist Jenny Lin has also won plaudits from Italy’s Eco di Bergamo: “She has not only bravura, flawless technique and youthful temperament; but also a class that is perceptible at once, and that puts her on a different level”.  She received standing ovations at her Spoleto Festival debut, and has performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Kennedy Center, MoMA, Stanford Live and festivals such as Mostly Mozart, the Chopin Festival Austria and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany. Among the highlights of Jenny Lin’s 2017-18 season was the release of a recording of the complete Piano Etudes of Philip Glass, which she has been performing on a world tour with him.

Philip Glass is joined by Anton Batagov, Aaron Diehl and Jenny Lin in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ on July 21st and 22nd. For more information and tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites:

Philip Glass

Lavinia Meijer

Anton Batagov

Aaron Diehl

Jenny Lin


AllMusic – Matt Haimovitz


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