Along with the two books of piano studies by Gyorgy Ligeti, the Etudes of Philip Glass have taken their place as modern classics of the literature, serving both a didactic purpose to train the fingers and minds of their performers, but also bringing their unique soundworlds to new audiences.
Glass himself remarked that the first book, compiled from work between 1991 and 2012, had a twin objective, ‘to explore a variety of tempi, textures and piano techniques. At the same time it was meant to serve as a pedagogical tool by which I would improve my piano playing.’ The studies of Book 2 (2012-14) are often bolder in finding new structures and fresh keyboard colours. Each of the 20 Etudes handles a specific piano technique, and the two books are united by the instantly recognisable quirks of Glass’s harmonic language and, as Jeroen van Veen remarks in his booklet note, ‘in almost all the etudes, endurance is the main issue to overcome’.
Most recent of the pianist’s many Brilliant Classics recordings of Minimalist music have been albums dedicated to the genre’s godfather, Erik Satie (BC95350) and his successors including Michael Nyman (BC95112) and Max Richter (BC95390). ‘Van Veen’s beautiful and texturally varied sonority, his long-lined sensibility, and his intense focus draw you in,’ remarked Classics Today of the complete Satie box.
‘Sample the Nocturnes’ sustained, almost otherworldly serenity, or the subtle spacing of notes throughout the Véritables préludes flaques, and you’ll hear how completely and masterfully van Veen conveys his intentions, abetted by superb, full-bodied sonics… His fascinating and riveting pianism is well worth Brilliant Classics’ attractive budget price.’
Philip Glass’ Piano Etudes stand at the end of a long line of development, starting with “exercises” by Scarlatti, through romantic piano etudes composers such as Clementi, Czerny, Hummel, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, to 20-th century masters like Ligeti and Cage.
Philip Glass, icon of the Minimal Music, wrote these etudes between 1991 and 2012, to “explore a variety of tempi, textures and piano techniques”, and also “to become a better player”.
Jeroen van Veen, celebrated pioneer of the performance of Minimal Music and Extraordinary Repertoire, considers these etudes as “refreshingly new, really adding something to the existing repertoire, the challenge being not only the technical hurdles but mainly the endurance and concentration”.