Maki Namekawa

Philip Glass: The Complete Piano Etudes

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The 20 etudes of Philip Glass, composed between 1994 and 2013, were not a single set. They fall into two books of ten, with subgroupings within each arising at different times in response to a variety of commissions. Yet they work well as a set, with the harmonic language, as in Glass' compositions in other media, expanding as his career developed; the middle of the second set provides a sort of climax, and the final etude of the set is the longest one and the one with the most explicit goal of transcendence. Their musical language is not fundamentally different from that of Glass in general, but it is concentrated as a piano will do. Recordings of Glass' music on his own Orange Mountain Music label are generally of high quality, but pianist Maki Namekawa achieves unusually idiomatic Glass readings here: this music requires the sort of clarity that brings out the polyphony in the composer's music and the play of overtones and sonorities that evolves from it, and that's just what listeners get from Namekawa. Glass himself has recorded some of these works, but this is one of those cases where a specialist achieves better results than the composer. Recommended for those curious about Glass and the piano, or even for those looking for a concise introduction to the composer's later style.

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