Philip Glass Solo

There’s already a great deal of Philip Glass in my music collection but I couldn’t resist listening to this latest album, Philip Glass Solo – though it was Luis Alverez Roure’s striking portrait of Glass that caught my attention. I first listened to Glass in the 1980s when I bought a copy of Glassworks on CD from Our Price, finding it both challenging in terms of what I expected from “classical” music as a teenager and beguiling for the strange, circling musical pattens that I found almost hypnotic (plus I also was attracted to the album cover which seemed to me to capture the styling of the time). I have distinct memories of sitting in my bedroom in my childhood home listening to the album in summertime. In the mid-1990s, Kronos Quartet Plays Philip GlassString Quartets 3-5 – (and the growth of the internet, of course) became the mechanism for me to listen to more and Einstein on the Beach, which I continue to find utterly compelling. There was a time when I worked in Canterbury that I’d listen to a playlist of Glass’ when I’d get into work early in the morning.

Philip Glass Solo are 7 (mostly) short pieces played by the composer himself at home on piano during the lockdown. Glass says:

This record is both a time capsule of 2021, and a reflection on decades of composition and practice. In other words, a document on my current thinking about the music. There is also the question of place. This is my piano, the instrument on which most of the music was written. It’s also the same room where I have worked for decades in the middle of the energy which New York City itself has brought to me. The listener may hear the quiet hum of New York in the background or feel the influence of time and memory that this space affords. To the degree possible, I made this record to invite the listener in.

It’s a gentle album of well-known pieces which seem to me to be quieter, pensive, more intimate – maybe less large-scale atmospheric – than other recordings I’ve listened to. You get the impression of the 87 year-old composer sat alone at his piano playing with grace and poised craftmanship. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of unfamiliar, mainly electronic and experimental music, and it’s been lovely to listen to music a little more contemplative and – dare I say – nostalgic.