As with live performances, premiere recordings are nice, but second recordings can make the difference in confirming a work's validity and viability.
Alsop, who had a working relationship with Glass in the 1970s and 1980s, brings more subtle emotional colouring to this music than one would have thought possible. Indeed, the Second Symphony… seethes with confilct and human pathos. Paradoxically, this makes Glass's music seem even more daring than it did when he was fixated almost solely on formal matters. This disc is a winner.
Raymond S. Tuttle, International Record Review, 1/1/2005
It seems appropriate that the third symphony appears first on the recording - this is a truly conventional symphony, its large-scale form being split into four movements, complete with a theatrical finale. Written for 19 strings, it treats each instrument as a soloist, also using them together to create the unique textures characteristic of a string orchestra. The sonorities have been heard before but Glass' stamp is unmistakable in the relentlessly repeated figures.
The second symphony is vaster on every level - it is longer, written for a larger orchestra and sprawls into further-reaching territories in its use of polytonality. Glass wrote of this symphony that the purpose of using two keys together was more about creating ambiguity than about clashing sounds. It is as if the ear does not know quite what to focus on, resulting in new discoveries on each listen - something new can be heard each time, depending on where the ear settles.
Marin Alsop worked with Glass in the 1970s and 1980s and clearly understands where symphonies are coming from. The relentless nature of the music could be subjected to a hammering without time to breathe - but in Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's hands it is both accessible and logical. Particularly in the second symphony, the musical ideas are heard clearly being passed around the orchestra, creating perfectly that sense of ambiguity without chaos.
Fans will be well satisfied and the film-music quality of the material may appeal to newcomers, who may just find themselves looking further into his output as a result.
Sophie Lang, Muso Magazine, 3/1/2005
The Third Symphony, for strings only, contains some of Glass's most gentle, subtle textures, as well as the usual trademarks. The edgy power of the finale prompts stunning playing from the Bournemouth Strings.
Barry Witherden, Gramophone, 12/1/2004
This continuation of the award-winning American Classics series will certainly please Glass devotees with two symphonies that were commissioned within a year of each other a decade ago. But they have completely different moods. While the more intimate Third is rather jolly at times, with the second movement reminding me of early Copland, I prefer that more menacing tones of the Second, with its oriental-sounding first movement.
Nick Bailey, Classic fM Magazine, 1/1/2005
No. 3 is a chamber symphony for string orchestra, its thematic integrity carefully delineated, while No. 2 is for full orchestra, all grand gesture and structural ambition. Marin Alsop's Glass is assured, almost relaxed when the score permits, occasionally laconic and shot through with a lightness of spirit which is extremely uplifting.
Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine, 1/1/2005
It’s truly incredible the level of musical production that Philip Glass has maintained in the last few years…whatever way you look at it these two symphonies on Naxos aren’t a bad starting place. They are also interesting for anyone attempting to initiate themselves in the music and style of Glass. Excellently interpreted versions.
, El Ritmo, 1/1/2005
Not many contemporary composers get their works recorded more than once so it is a measure of Philip Glass's popularity that this new British recording follows American recordings under Dennis Russell Davies in 1998 and 2000. Marin Alsop has worked with the composer in the past and brings a long-standing love and knowledge of the scores to his recording. The 3rd Symphony for string orchestra follows in the tradition of orchestral string writing which would be familiar to lovers of Elgar and Tchaikovsky. The Second Symphony for full orchestra is a darker, more demanding work, though listeners familiar with Glass's operas will find the content familiar.
Brian Hick, Musical Opinion, 11/1/2005