Magazine article Gramophone

Glass

Magazine article Gramophone

Glass

Article excerpt

Etudes--selection. Glassworks--Opening Vlkingur Olafsson pf with Siggi Quartet DG (F) 479 6918GH (80' * DVD)

In 2015, when Glass's complete set of 20 Etudes for solo piano were presented tag-team-style --by five different pianists (including the composer himself) at London's Barbican Centre, the Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson's performances stood out for their rare combination of sheer technical brilliance, expressive control and interpretative depth. As Ivan Hewett pointed out at the time, hearing Olafsson playing these etudes was 'like listening to a true masterpiece'. Several impressive recordings of Glass's Etudes 10 of which are presented here--already exist by Glass luminaries including Maki Namekawa, Paul Barnes (both on Orange Mountain) and Bruce Levingston (Sono Luminus), but Olafsson's interpretations inhabit a unique, distinct and extraordinary world all their own.

It is tempting to draw comparison with Glenn Gould here. Like Gould, Olafsson possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities. In Glass's music, each repetition is enriched by subtle changes in colour, voice-leading and articulation, as if Olafsson were continually refreshing the page on his musical server.

In the 'Opening' from Glassworks, another pianist might have been content simply to execute twos against threes with clock-like precision. Olafsson goes much further, drawing to the surface with every cycle each of the four lines latent in the piano's texture. …

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