Mad Rush. Piano works by Philip Glass

Lisa Moore, piano
Classical, New Music
Orange Mountain Music 0099
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

At the outset I must confess to taking on this CD review more out of admiration for Lisa Moore’s track record as a performer of new music than for Glass’s compositions, with which I have struggled for four decades to appreciate. As I suspected, Moore does not disappoint in the execution of these piano works. She plays Glass’s very repetitive, often tricky textures with consummate ease and grace, creating a kind of mesmerizing mood that helps one better understand what Glass is trying to achieve in his work. I often found myself engrossed in the textural interplay of ostinati in much the same way I might focus meditatively, for example, on the complex timbral mélange of a gong roll.

Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore

This selection from Glass’s large solo piano catalogue covers the title work Mad Rush for piano or organ (1979), Metamorphosis I-V for piano (1988) and Etude No. 2 for piano (1994) as well as what appear to be two transcriptions for piano: ‘Satyagraha Conclusion’ from the opera Satyagraha (1978-79) and a piece called ‘Closing’ which could be derived from the last movement (‘Closing’) of the ensemble piece Glassworks (1982). I say ‘could be’ because one of the faults of this CD is its poor documentation. There are no notes provided about the individual pieces and even their dates of composition are missing.

As a listener approaching these works it would be useful, for example, to know something about the titles. Is the mad rush of Mad Rush the blustering flurry of rapid arpeggios that shatters the quite sedate opening mood of the piece, or does the title have some other significance? What is the process of metamorphosis in the five Metamorphosis movements? Does each one morph from the previous one or is the process internal to each piece? Some clues to direct the listening process would greatly assist an appreciation of this very long work.

One approach I found myself employing to enjoy the more flowing textures such as those of Etude No. 2, ‘Satyagraha Conclusion’ and ‘Closing’ was to imagine a layer of lyrical melody over the top of the piano textures. In the Glassian aesthetic this is probably heresy, but it helped me engage more deeply with the music.

Lisa Moore’s hypnotic playing alone makes it worth buying this CD. If you are a Glass fan, it’s a must.

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