Monday, November 25, 2013

Morelia Music Festival: Three Pianists, including Philip Glass, Play all 20 of his Etudes

After hearing Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet play his compelling score for Dracula the night before, there was no way I would stay away from the chance to hear his series of piano etudes, even though Jorge Federico Osorio was playing Brahms Second Piano Concerto at the same time. Glass chose pianists Maki Namekawa and Alexandr Pashkov to join him in playing the twenty pieces which were divided into seven sets. I hope many in the audience felt as I did, that we were incredibly fortunate in hearing the composer-pianist and two others interpret the pieces he had written over two decades..

Glass has said he began writing the Etudes as a way to practice and build up a repertoire for his solo performances, but as time went on, he began to consider them his autobiography.

As he opened the concert, Glass played matter-of-factly with no hint of his pianistic fireworks that would come when he played later. Namekawa approached her opening set differently, playing with such force and at times a jazz rhythm that I wondered whether Glass had imagined his etudes sounding like this. One of a generation of cosmopolitan musicians, Namekawa, who was born in Japan but now lives in Europe, was featured at. the recent Perth Australia Festival where she premiered Glass' most recent etudes.

Pashkov, born in Russia but now making his career in Mexico, is well-known to the Festival audience.
His sensibility, especially in the first set he played, reflected his European training and intuition.
Then and later, the audience showed their appreciation.

In Glass' middle set, he displayed almost nuclear energy, and of course received tremendous applause. By that time a few in the audience had left, perhaps bored by the composer's characteristic (some would say obsessive) use of certain techniques.

The last etude could almost have been movie music from the mid-twentieth century (in fact, Glass is well-known for his movie scores) but the 18th and 19th etudes are the ones that moved me. He was indeed revealing new layers of his autobiography, looking back from his seventies in a way that reflected how many of feel and think as we do the same.

--=I have read that until now Glass's Etude 6 is the most popular, but perhaps in time it will be equaled or surpassed by these two etudes. Glass said at his press conference, a composer welcomes being popular (Mozart was in his time), but that it is hard to predict what will be popular in fifty years. As someone of Glass's generation, I hope that there will still be listeners responding to the layers, the chiaroscuro in these recent etudes

The night before The Kronos Quartet, Glass and Riesman accompanied the classic movie Dracula. Glass wrote theis tense music for a reissue of the film. I had always wanted to hear the Kronos so I looked forward to their part as well as the rest of the evening. Earlier I had even talked with one of the violinists. Philip Glass's music built up the tension as Bela Lugosi did in the title role. And the Kronos: another of the players said what hard work they would have playing the score. Listening to the steady tension was easy for this movie fan and a perfect prelude to hearing the Etudes the next night..