GLASS: Kepler.
Martin Achrainer (Kepler); Soloists and Chorus of the Landestheater Linz, Bruckner Orchester Linz/Dennis Russell Davies.
OMM 0071 TT: 114:01 (2 CDs).

It turns out that the universe is a really boring place. Of the classic Minimalists, my favorites are by far Steve Reich and John Adams. I have no idea why Philip Glass continues to get commissions. The charm and interest of his music escapes me. I dreaded having to listen to Kepler, and Kepler confirmed my dread. In short, it's like every other Philip Glass work I've heard: overly long, directionless, and with a crushing sameness of musical texture. It's not just that every section of the work throbs to a crushing ostinato, it's largely the same ostinato from number to number.

Glass calls this work an opera. He can call it "Fred" for all I care, but it's certainly no drama, because there's nothing near an Aristotelian action and no conflict. A compendium of Latin and German writings by Kepler, with side trips to the Bible and other sources, it has absolutely no direction, no real point, no goal. I've seen elementary-school pageants with more coherence. And it runs on for nearly two hours.

I could sense outrage rising within me, but I quickly told myself not to bother. So I lost a few hours from my life. I do consider that Glass makes things very easy on himself in all his operas. Take a Big Subject and churn out the notes. Who's next? Bach? Beethoven? Van Gogh? Dante? With Finale or Sibelius, Glass can even cut and paste, thus cutting down on his physical work. It reminds me of the adolescent who wants to write epics as the vessel of Great Thoughts, without actually having them. Kepler looks like very small beer, compared to Hindemith's Die Harmonie der Welt. I almost said "on the same subject," but of course I have no idea what Kepler's subject really is. It's a blob, a sprawl.

I could talk about the performance, but I see little point. It seems good enough. It doesn't require a Chailly, after all.

S.G.S. (July 2011)