PHILIP GLASS (b.1937): Complete Piano Etudes - Nos. 1-20.
Catalogue Number: 01Q055
Label: Orange Mountain Music
Reference: OMM 0098
Description: Because Glass' solo piano pieces were primarily written for himself to play - and by his own admission, in the case of these studies, to extend his technique - most of the previous recordings and performances have been his own. It is interesting to observe the change in perspective that results from technically immaculate, rhythmically precise performances like these. With all the intricately meshed arpeggios precisely in place, every chord perfectly balanced, the pieces work better, and paradoxically, their humanity and emotional content is greater, and Glass turns out to be a better piano composer than he had previously appeared. The slow, minor-key, reflective mood, redolent of nostalgic longing and loneliness has long been one of Glass' most telling modes of expression, and the composer's idiom, distilled to its essentials like this, takes on a personal aspect ideally suited to this mood; and this, the atmosphere of Wichita Vortex Sutra, his unforgettable collaboration with Allen Ginsberg, is abundantly present here. In the first set, begun in the early 1990s and completed about a decade later, there is a sense of progression; some sections sound like piano transcriptions of passages from familiar Glass works, as far back as Glassworks (1982) in fact. Reminiscences of other pieces also appear - the operas and film scores of the 1980s for instance. As the series progresses, a greater emphasis on melody, with the 'minimalist' repetitions serving as accompaniment, emerges. The second book follows the same trends as Glass' other music of the last decade; changes of harmony, rhythm and texture occur much faster, and there is far greater variety of expression and dynamic than in earlier works. Glass' customary chords, oscillating intervals and gestures are still firmly present, but the overall impression is less 'minimalist' - or more accurately, classic Glassian minimalist methods have been absorbed into a more varied vocabulary. The piano writing is also considerably more ambitious and demanding, making the series as a whole both a fascinating document of the composer's continuing evolution, and a revealing and rewarding personal testament. Maki Namekawa (piano).