Monday, April 10, 2017


Time for an apology. 

I've been pretty dismissive of Philip Glass over the years, arguing that his music was boring/repetitive/lacked emotion/a one-shot deal/over-hyped/reflective of our attention deficit times/migraine-inducing/etc. etc. 

I've made damning contrasts with composers such as Steve Reich (subtle invention & patterns), John Adams (energy & great textures) as well as finding things of interest in Max Richter (the Vivaldi rewrites in particular). 

I've dutifully gone out & bought Einstein on the Beach & Satyagraha but they've remained more or less unplayed. Admittedly Glassworks has its moments. 

I'd written off Glass as not worth pursuing other than as an influence (directly or indirectly) on other people who seemed to be doing far more interesting things: the early Laurie Anderson, the David Byrne of The Knee Plays, the wonderful Meredith Monk. And let's not even begin to mention him in the same sassy New York avenue breath as - awed tones - Morton Feldman. I mean really ... 

And so I need to redress the balance. For this new disc Piano Works is extraordinarily good. I don't know whether it is the pieces themselves, the individual interpretation by Ólafsson, the tone of the piano, the recording acoustics, my state of mind on this rather dull grey April day but ... honestly, it's a lovely album. I hear strange ghosts one minute of early cinema accompanists, then Liszt, Schubert, Satie perhaps. Track 5 is especially haunting. 

If, like me you've always had an aversion to Glass, this is a CD which might change your mind. 

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