Department of Music

University Organist Mark Steinbach's New Album Released by Philip Glass' Label Orange Mountain Music

On January 15, 2021, composer Philip Glass' record label Orange Mountain Music released GLASS BACH DRESDEN a new recording featuring Brown University Organist Mark Steinbach performing on the 1755 Gottfried Silbermann organ in Dresden's Kathedrale St. Trinitatis. Stream, purchase a digital download or a CD here:

albumOrange Mountain Music's press release follows:

Orange Mountain Music is proud to announced the release of GLASS BACH DRESDEN by organist Mark Steinbach.  The new album is performed on the renowned 1755 Silbermann Organ, one of the most famous organs in all of Europe, which is located at the Cathedral of St.Trinitas in Dresden Germany. Steinbach presents this new album which ties together the music of two composers, Philip Glass and J.S. Bach, separated by centuries yet inextricably linked on a musical level.

While it’s a rare treat to hear Bach on an instrument very much of his time, it’s also a special gift to hear modern music on such a prestigious instrument.  However, in a much more immediate way, the existence of this organ at all is nothing short of a miracle. 

Steinbach describes:

Miraculously, the Cathedral organ’s 3,500 pipes and windchest escaped destruction, as they had been stored safely outside the city in December 1944, shortly before the bombing in February 1945. Now restored, this instrument is an outstanding example of a Baroque organ of significant proportions (three manuals, 43 stops) in a stunningly live acoustic. It navigates music of its contemporaries such as Bach beautifully, but also reveals new dimensions to music of new composers. The complicated and traumatic history of the city of Dresden, combined with the organ’s dramatic survival story made this recording process a powerful emotional experience.

The album begins with Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in D Major, the perfect showpiece for this particular organ as it was originally built in 1755, only five years after Bach’s death in 1750. One is reminded of the famous quote by Bartok, “It may well be that some composers do not believe in God. All of them, however, believe in Bach.” This is unquestionably the case with Philip Glass.  During three years of intensive study in France with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1960s, Glass “did nothing except study Bach.” The fledgling composer did endless hours of counterpoint exercises and the most grueling training largely based on the foundations of western classical music that while Glass’s music is unmistakably his, it’s also unmistakably Bachian in its clean technique and adherence to the rules of classical harmony. When asked of Bach’s influence on him, Glass states simply, “Bach wrote the book.”

Steinbach continues his program with a brilliant rendition Glass’s 1978 “Mad Rush.”  Not ostensibly a “religious work” per se, Mad Rush was written on the organ at St. John the Divine in New York for the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s first public address in New York. Steinbach pairs this brilliantly with “Nun komm, Her Heiden Heiland” (Now come, Savior of the Heathens), Bach’s setting/version of the Advent hymn.  The album is rounded out with Philip Glass’s 1979 “Dance No.4 for Organ” from his work called DANCE, a 1979 collaboration with choreographer Lucinda Childs and artist Sol LeWitt. Steinbach’s performance captures all the inherent joy in the piece, all the while cleverly masking the difficulty of the work, for nothing else, the pure stamina and strength required to play it on this beautiful ancient instrument.