Philip Glass Solo

Philip Glass Solo

With lockdown came huge cultural change. As concerts and recordings were canceled, musicians’ homes became stages and studios. It was a time of reinvention, hastened by necessity. Philip Glass, then 83, was in the middle of a tour when the pandemic struck, and was forced to retreat to his New York apartment. “I had been on the road essentially for half a century,” the American minimalist tells Apple Music Classical, “but suddenly, for the first time in years, I had time to play the piano.” Philip Glass Solo is the result of many hours spent at his beloved Baldwin grand piano revisiting and rerecording a selection of his early piano works, some of which he first played on his 1989 album Solo Piano (also recorded on a Baldwin). “When I think about my earlier music, I don’t write music like that anymore, so I’m curious about the person who wrote them,” he says. “I am no longer that person. We all change—it’s inevitable. I am no longer that person as a composer, as a performer, or even as a listener.” And indeed, Glass’ performances are noticeably different—they possess a more improvisatory character compared to those 1989 takes, as if he were composing each piece in front of us. Mad Rush, by far the longest piece here, is almost three minutes longer—it’s freer, looser. That’s partly explained by the complex relationship that exists between composer and interpreter. “When I was in music school, they almost uniformly told composers not to perform,” remembers Glass, “but interpretation can make you think of the music in a way you wouldn’t have if you were just the composer. When you are an interpreter yourself, you understand the possibilities of the music in a different way. And they sometimes appear to you in real time.” There’s little doubt that the timbre and feel of the piano also play their part in shaping Glass’ interpretations. This particular Baldwin has been shaped by 35 years of constant use—in “Metamorphosis 1” or in the final “Truman Sleeps” you can hear the fragile treble notes battle the instrument’s resounding midrange. “I have done most of my composing on it or next to it,” he explains, “and it’s inevitable that the sound of the instrument you play every day, and the room that you are in, must in some way influence how you hear.” Perhaps this album was influenced, too, by Glass’ sense of a shared lockdown experience. “One thing I will say is that I wasn’t alone,” he says. “During the pandemic, we were all in our homes. So, we did what people have always done: we played music…for ourselves, for others.”

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