Tuesday, March 20, 2018

81-year-old pianist makes debut

Anne Midgette has a piece in the Washington Post about an upcoming debut at the Kennedy Center:
The Kennedy Center will see a long-overdue debut Friday when the composer Philip Glass, 81, will perform there for the first time, playing his piano etudes with four other pianists as part of the Direct Current festival. On March 16, the festival will present another Glass work: the score to Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 film “Koyaanisqatsi,” with the Philip Glass Ensemble and the Washington Chorus.
Not this Friday, sorry, the article is a few days old. You have to really admire Philip Glass for his stamina, productivity and agelessness. No child prodigy, he! Indeed, he had to support himself working at various jobs including driving a cab and doing plumbing and furniture moving well into his forties. Since then he has managed to live off commissions and performances. As he said recently, if you live long enough, you can actually make a living at this! I recommend his memoir, Words Without Music, a pretty good read, even if one longs for an unauthorized biography.

It seems that most of the composers who really managed a prolific production of music throughout their lives were ones who discovered a niche and then explored it over and over again, always discovering new glints of creativity. A couple of examples would be Dominico Scarlatti with his 555 keyboard sonatas and Joseph Haydn with his 106 symphonies. Philip Glass has a harmonic and rhythmic spectrum that, while certainly limited, has served him very well for decade after decade.

Here are the first ten of his Piano Etudes:

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