For all his stylistic constancy, Philip Glass has always been a mercurial composer in terms of quality.
For all his stylistic constancy, Philip Glass has always been a mercurial composer in terms of quality. Some of his recent large-scale pieces have been truly awful, even as he has excelled in such realms as the string quartet. Glass' solo piano music has usually brought out the best of him, and for years, he has treated lucky audiences to live performances of his ongoing series of etudes, or "studies." With the first volume complete, he chose the etudes to help inaugurate his Orange Mountain Music label (newly distributed by Harmonia Mundi). All of the Glass trademarks are here, but rather than seeming repetitive, these pieces have a sense of magnetic inevitability, with living rhythms and strangely song-like melodies. The composer's vigorous touch and the full-bodied piano sound add to the allure. Glass' many fans will be ecstatic, while foes should be newly charmed.—BB