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About this Piece

Like so much of the later output of the Minimalist pioneers, little of Philip Glass’ more recent music can be described as truly minimal. Four Movements uses the grammar of the 1960s and 1970s to create a musical landscape that is much more vertically dense, structurally zigzaggy and atmospherically romantic. Narrative is back, as are themes. Repetition and rhythm still form a substantial part of the structural dynamic of this work. But it no longer dominates. The piece starts in mid-melodic flight. A dense web of cross-rhythms ensnares the opening phrase. Beefy octaves stride around cutting through the textures. There are two clearings, in which Glass sets out one maudlin thought and one more furtive one. The second movement is slow. It alternates between two moods: one downcast and harmonically uneasy and a second dominated by a tender ballad that soars over a glinting treble-clef ostinato. The third movement is the longest and the most complicated rhythmically and harmonically. There is even the sense of a good old Romantic struggle between keys (F major and F minor). The final movement begins with a low, richly harmonized and snaky melody on the second piano. Syncopations and fast ostinati propel it forward and ultimately shatter the melody in spectacular style.