The full title of this 2-CD recording is Book of Longing: a Song Cycle Based on the Poetry and Images of Leonard Cohen. Philip Glass composed the music using The Book of Longing (2006), Cohen’s first collection of poetry in 22 years, as lyrics. The work premiered at the Luminato Festival in Toronto in 2007. The recording features a soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass-baritone accompanied by a small musical ensemble which includes Glass himself on keyboard. Cohen recites some of the poems himself throughout the work. I’m a fan of both Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen, so this is a recording I was eager to hear.
The Prologue features Cohen reciting his poem I Can’t Make the Hills with Glass’s recognizably circular, rhythmic music as accompaniment. Don’t Have the Proof features Cohen and a yearning sax solo. You Go Your Way and I Want to Love You Now were also favorites of mine. The lyrics are characteristic of Cohen’s mix of the bittersweet, spiritual, sexual and wryly humorous. I can’t say that I liked all of the individual song settings, but as a whole I thought it was a challenging but successful collaboration. Anyone who is drawn to the work of either Glass or Cohen should find it rewarding.