Philip Glass falls very much into the Marmite category of modern composers. Even if you like his most popular work (the numerous film scores he has done) there still remains the fact that his more “serious” (read: un-commercial) work can be infuriating. If you need proof of this, try to listen to Einstein On The Beach in a single sitting and then reappraise him. Therefore Waiting For The Barbarians was approached with some trepidation. Even the subject matter (torture and its effects both physically and psychologically) suggested that this wasn’t going to be an easy ride, which turned out to right.
It is deeply disturbing, not for what is seen (nothing is) but for the matter-of-fact conversations that surround each act. However to counter-act this discomfort we have a series of musical cues that are accessible – not once does it veer off into deeply experiment screeching that leaves you exhausted – it is easy to follow and each character has their own place within the whole.
Recommended? Yes and no. If you like Glass then it will be everything you expect, however if you haven’t heard anything of his before I’d recommend starting with Akhnaten instead.