Mad Rush: Solo Piano Music of Philip Glass Sally Whitwell ABC Classics 476 4469

The debut album of Sydney pianist, Sally Whitwell is a couragious and landmark recording for the ABC. It shows a pianist of extraordinary skill in re-interpreting the solo piano music of Philip Glass using the equally innovative and powerful Stuart & Sons grand piano (complete with 102 keys).

In the hands of Whitwell, the tonal excursions chosen for this disc, Opening (from Glassworks), Metamorphosis I-V, Mad Rush, Dead Things, and Wichita Vortex Sutra are alive with the pulsating repetitions, sudden shifts in dynamics, and gradual shaping of phrases. There is perpetual movement, but it remains hypnotic.

“The new musical style that Glass was evolving, was eventually dubbed minimalism. Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of ‘music with repetitive structures’. Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, and develops.” (retrieved from http://www.philipglass.com )

Glass has been one of the most interesting personalities in the composition world, a musician who has revolutionised art music for the past 60 years, describing himself as a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist. The never-ending spiraling of his sound world encapsulates this spiritual ascension to higher planes.

As much a pop as well as a cult phenomenon, he was trained by some of the great masters in composition from Nadia Boulanger to Darius Milhaud. His music covers film music, opera, chamber works, symphonies and concerti.

The chatty and highly personal insights from the performer allows the listener a glimpse into her sound world and also her own perspectives on this world. “Philip Glass’s music up close is like impressionist pixelations. Step back a little and you see magnificent, undulating, organic shapes,” wrote Whitwell.

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