Sorry, Philip, but your Einstein is on another beach
January 14, 2013 5:18 AM   Subscribe

I suddenly realized this morning that of all the recordings of Philip Glass I've got, I don't have Einstein on the Beach. And now I want to listen to it. If Amazon had only one or two versions, I'd just buy one and be done with it, but there are over half a dozen different productions to choose from... Which one should I buy, if I'm only going to buy one?

I would really, really prefer a CD box set -- I like having hard copy backups of my music, I like reading the liner notes, and I'm tweaky enough to want non-lossy audio. Recommendations that involve one of the specialty high-def music stores won't be ignored but I'd rather have CDs. I don't have a record player so unfortunately vinyl is ruled out.

Similarly, cheap is preferred (and I don't mind buying used copies at all) but I wouldn't turn up my nose at paying a premium for something good enough to justify the expense -- short of collectors/audiophile type markups. I don't love this music enough to spend $50/disk for it.
posted by ardgedee to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The one I have is from Sony Opera House label, with the Philip Glass ensemble. A friend in contemporary music recommended this one to me.
posted by typewriter at 7:09 AM on January 14, 2013

The 1993 Nonesuch recording is much more complete than the 1979 recording, and despite the appearances on Amazon, I think these are still the only two versions available as CD box sets. The 1979 version has many of the movements truncated for time.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:23 AM on January 14, 2013

To my knowledge there is only really the 1979 and 1993 box sets. And as shakespeherian said, the 1993 is the most complete. There are other aspects that differentiate them. The 1979 sound has a rawer quality to it and is a bit more abrasive. They are different enough that I purchased both way back when. However, if I had to choose, I would go with the 1993 recording every time. Although I actually like the older analog synth sound for most of Glass's pieces of that era, in this case, the 1993 release has better production qualities and sounds more polished. The 1979 is shrill and out of control by comparison.
posted by Smegoid at 8:35 AM on January 14, 2013

Yeah, I also own both. The 1979 was the first I had and I have a certain fondness for its sound (which may or may not be nostalgia). The 1979 recording is a lot looser and messy-- the 1993 recording is a lot closer to what I think Glass was going for, and is hands-down a fantastic performance and the better of the two.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2013

Check your public library and any academic libraries you have access to; they will likely have at least one version to try.
posted by BrashTech at 9:26 AM on January 14, 2013

Based on these comments, I'll have to listen to the 1993 version sometime myself; only familiar with the 1978 on vinyl.
posted by omnidrew at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2013

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
I decided to get both versions anyway.

The Nonesuch album is both more challenging and more rewarding to listen all the way through. The Sony version, re-sequenced and produced to deal with the limitations of vinyl playback time, is inadvertently made into a kind of singles-ready performance, in the sense of being easier to enjoy in short sessions.

So despite having much of the same cast and direction, they're still sufficiently unlike that each stands on its own as a distinct interpretation. Thanks for the help of everybody who offered their suggestions; I would probably still be dithering about which one to get otherwise.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:42 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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