Home #Hwoodtimes The Lasting Emotional Resonance of Philip Glass and the Complete Etudes

The Lasting Emotional Resonance of Philip Glass and the Complete Etudes

The Lasting Emotional Resonance Of The Complete Etudes Of Philip Glass

At the Walt Disney Concert Hall, five masterful pianists took on the challenge of interpreting the Complete Etudes, 1-20, and the result touched the heart of memory and the soul of inquiry.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 03/22/2024 – It has been a few days since I saw five masterful pianists take on the challenge of interpreting Philip Glass’ Complete Etudes, 1-20, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Produced by Pomegranate Arts as part of the Green Umbrella concert series, it was profound, doing justice to this often-overused word. I am still processing the enduring emotional resonance of the experience. Very few performances touched me so deeply, yet also so unexpectedly. As time continues to pass, the power remains like a first kiss that signals a lasting love.

Although I knew the theoretical and experimental nature of Philip Glass’ work, I never entirely understood his innate lyricism and melodic presence. Hearing the Complete Etudes, you cannot help but be overcome with the beauty of this music. However, this beauty is a byproduct of the creation of these pieces. As Philip Glass told his cousin, the radio personality Ira Glass, “They were totally about my own limitations, in pursuit of technique.”

Jenny Lin, Timo Andres, Anton Batagov, Lara Downes, and Maki Namekawa were the five pianists chosen to take on this pursuit of technique. The differences in approach from each pianist brought the pieces to life as the structurally stylized music of Philip Glass took over the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Rather than succumbing to the danger of becoming robotic in execution, the pianists allowed their styles and personalities to interact with each etude.

Such engagement with the work is truly needed to realize their brilliance. As film composer Michael Deragon, my guest at the concert, expressed, “These etudes are delicate, violent, exhausting, and enlightening. Built from a constant drive in the piano’s middle register, the embellishments and simple melodic moments occur in the bass register and high-ranged arpeggios. These embellishments act like waves of nostalgia and desire. It is nothing less than an expression of our simple human struggle. Balancing love and despair, the pieces’ emotive experience conveys how we live a life that pulses on with or without our control.”

Timo Andres Allows Etudes 5 To Touch Our Souls

Like the human experience, each person reacts and responds differently to the melodic repetitions at the heart of these pieces. At the same time, certain pianists have the power to turn a piece of music into a lasting moment of connection. When American composer and pianist Timo Andres was playing Etude 5, I had to remove my eyeglasses on three occasions to wipe away the tears.

Indeed, his playing was one of those perfect moments in life. Etude 5 was a moment that I wish I could relive for the rest of my life, again and again. Philip Glass’ lyrical wonder was realized, filling the Walt Disney Concert Hall with a beauty beyond words. I cannot adequately describe it beyond revealing that it brought me to tears and continues to affect me as I type these words. Beyond an aesthetic experience, it was a human experience of profound joy and respect.

Photos Courtesy of the LA Phil