Review – New York Times – Philip Glass, Easy to Mimic but Hard to Match

“ On Saturday, at Roulette in Brooklyn, the pianists Maki Namekawa and Dennis Russell Davies reveled in a program of Mr. Glass’s piano music, about half of which had been adapted from the composer’s operas.

There wasn’t a single dud in this sparkling concert. A suite from “Les Enfants Terribles” showed how much expressive range these two longtime Glass interpreters can bring to his music, with an intoxicating sense of reverie in “Elizabeth Chooses a Career.”
On Ms. Namekawa and Mr. Davies’s 2005 recording of this suite, the more aggressive movements had a metronomic tinge. On Saturday, that studied feeling was gone, replaced by a booming sound that allowed the music to breathe between peaks of intensity. Their approach to the 2008 piece “Four Movements for Two Pianos” also seems to have taken on greater texture over the years.

The program also included a 2013 miniature, “Stokes,” as well as excerpts from two stage works, “The Voyage” and “Orphée.” The latter, like “Les Enfants Terribles,” was inspired by the work of Jean Cocteau. More than Vivaldi, this French poet and filmmaker can reliably spur Mr. Glass’s harmonic imagination, and his agile humor — the attributes that make him both easy to mimic and difficult to match.”

Von Himmel und Erde, von Schubert bis Philip Glass

Liederabend: Martin Achrainer und Maki Namekawa begeisterten das Publikum in der Linzer Ursulinenkirche.

Liederabend: Martin Achrainer und Maki Namekawa begeisterten das Publikum in der Linzer Ursulinenkirche.

Am Sonntag gab Martin Achrainer gemeinsam mit Maki Namekawa einen “Musica sacra”-Liederabend, dessen Texte auf der Grenzlinie zwischen Himmel und Erde, zwischen Diesseits und Jenseits, ja zwischen Bewusstsein und allumfassendem Wissen pendelten.

Geniales Duo bei Musica sacra: Maki Namekawa (Klavier) und Bariton Martin Achrainer. Bild: Werner Kotek

Geniales Duo bei Musica sacra: Maki Namekawa (Klavier) und Bariton Martin Achrainer. Bild: Werner Kotek

Ein perfekt zusammengestelltes Programm, das seinen Ausgang bei Schuberts Wilhelm-Meister-Vertonungen nahm. Goethes Harfner-Texte haben den 19-jährigen Komponisten tief bewegt und sind auch sechs Jahre später bei ihrer Drucklegung Zeugnis eines unglücklichen Lebens, das bereits von Krankheit und Ausgeschlossenheit geprägt ist. Achrainer fand dafür den richtigen trostlosen, betroffen machenden Ton, den er auch für Gustav Mahlers Grenzgängertum in modulierter Form einsetzte. Brutaler wie das “Irdische Leben” kann wohl kaum ein Gedicht sein, und umgekehrt kann die Vorstellung vom “Himmlischen Leben” kaum naiver gezeichnet sein.

Und dennoch finden sich beide Texte in derselben Sammlung – Arnims und Brentanos “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”. Gedichte, die in ihrer derben, doch kunstvoll anregenden Schlichtheit Mahler begeisterten und zu einer Musik anregten, die ebenfalls zwischen den Grenzen des Seins pendelt.
Faszinierender Kosmos

Ergänzt mit “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” aus den Rückert-Liedern, gestalteten Martin Achrainer und Maki Namekawa einen faszinierenden Kosmos des unschuldigen Eintauchens in die Ewigkeit. Dazu passten perfekt – als österreichische Erstaufführung zu erleben – die “Songs of Milarepa”, für die sich Philip Glass von den Texten eines der wichtigsten Heiligen und Dichter des 11./12. Jahrhunderts in Tibet inspirieren ließ. Texte, die aus ganz anderer Sicht die Grenzen zwischen Diesseits und Jenseits als den Weg zur Weisheit zeichnen. Musikalisch hat Glass wie Schubert auf einfachste Mittel zurückgegriffen und den Worten in beeindruckender Diktion den Vortritt gelassen. Für Martin Achrainer ist die Orchesterfassung entstanden, die Maki Namekawa mit farbprächtigem Spiel auf dem Klavier nachzeichnete. Gemeinsam gelang so eine restlos beeindruckende Wiedergabe eines fabelhaft konzipierten Programms. Lautstarker Applaus!

Musica sacra: Liederabend mit Martin Achrainer (Bariton) und Maki Namekawa (Klavier), Ursulinenkirche Linz, 5.11.

Bewundernswerte Intensität

Reichlichen Beifall erntete auch die Pianistin Maki Namekawa für ihre technisch souveräne und musikalisch überzeugende Interpretation von Igor Strawinskys “Concerto für Klavier, Bläser, Pauken und Kontrabässe” (1924) und Maurice Ravels Klavierkonzert in G-Dur (1932).
Ein Sonderlob gebührt hier auch den Bläsern des BLO für die hervoragend ausgeführeten Soli.
Zwischen den rasanten, rhytmisch markanten Ecksätzen in Ravels Konzert liegt ein ein sehr schönes, atmosphärische dichtes Adagio assai, das Maki Namekawa mit bewundernswerter Intensität interpretierte. Nicht einmal die hemmungslosen Dauerhuster im Publikum konnten ihre Konzentration stören.

OberÖsterreichischeNachrichten – 2.Juni 2017

Review – Kronenzeitung – Fulminantes Abschiedskonzert von DRD bei AK CLassics

Mit einem phänomenalen Konzert feierte Dennis Russel Davies mit dem groß aufspielendem Bruckner Orchester im ausverkauften Linzer Brucknerhaus einen glänzenden Abschluss der AK Classics-Serie.
Auch die Programmauswahl hob die Erwartungsatmosphäre: Begeisterung und Standing Ovations!

Bewundernswert, wie alle drei Leonoren-Ouvertüren mit faszinierender Intensität interpretiert wurden. Die selten gespielte 1. Ouvertüre wirkt durch die instrumentale Aufgliederung eher vorsichtig, doch blitzen immer wieder die bekannten Motive auf.

Die Nr. 2 und 3 bereiten den musikalischen Fokus der Oper “Fidelio” großmächtig vor und bejubeln die Befreiung von Florestan mit herrlichen Klangmetamorphosen, dieDavies mit “seinem” Bruckner Orchester zu einem triumphalem Begeisterungssturm emporhob.

Dazwischen erklangen das kraftvoll sprühende und rhythmisch belebende Concerto für Klavier, Bläser, Pauken und Kontrabässe von Stravinsky und das romantische, herrlich inspirierende Klavierkonzert von Maurice Ravel. Die grandios aufspielende Maki Namekawa faszinierte mit enormer Virtuosität und toller rhythmischer Sicherheit.
Kronenzeitung 2. Juni 2017

BBC Music Magazine

The works making up the two books of Etudes began to emerge piecemeal in the 1990s. Six studies from book one were composed in 1994 for the 50th birthday of pianist and conductor Dennis Russell Davies, whose association with Glass goes back some four decades. As further compositions emerged the second set began to build up, culminating in the commissioning of the final three by the Perth Festival to mark Glass’s 75th birthday in 2012.

In the first set Glass set out to challenge and extend himself as a pianist, while in the second he has said he sought to examine new ways of developing rhythmic and harmonic movement. In both sets typical Glass ostinatos are often infused with a very late-Classical/Romantic feel, and in places there are even hints of the French Impressionists. These aspects may well seduce listeners who have resisted the attractions of Glass’s music previously, while Glass’s fans will find all the things they enjoy about his work.

Even those who are sceptical about the music cannot help being impressed by the playing of Japanese pianist Maki Namekawa. She plays with flair, agility, conviction and clarity, and it’s all captured vividly by long-term Glass collaborator Michael Riesman behind the recording and mastering desks.

 

Barry Witherden

BR-Klassik | The Complete Piano Etudes (German)

“THE COMPLETE PIANO ETUDES”
18.02.2015 von Helmut Rohm
1
Ein durchaus gewaltiger, ein suggestiver Sog vermag auszugehen von der Musik des Amerikaners Philip Glass. Überlässt man sich den Wiederholungsmustern langsamer Stücke, so kann man in eine meditative Trance verfallen; schnell pulsierende und metrisch vielleicht gebrochene Klanggeschiebe vermitteln oft fast zwanghaft etwas von der Hektik des modernen urbanen Lebens.

Kompositionen von Glass beruhen gern auf irregulär verketteten Repetitionstexturen. Sie haben etwas Mechanistisch-Stereotypes, wollen aber nicht verstören. In kleinen harmonischen Wendungen oder rhythmisch-metrischen Details spielen sie mit dem Irritationsmoment; trotzdem bleiben sie süffig, fluide, leicht zu konsumieren. “Easy Listening” wohl, nicht aber “Easy Playing”. Die japanische Pianistin Maki Namekawa hat nun auf einer beim Label Orange Mountain Music veröffentlichten Doppel-CD alle zwanzig Etüden für Klavier solo mitreißend eingespielt. Und zeitgleich sind auch die Noten der auf zwei 2003 bzw. 2014 fertiggestellte Bücher verteilten Stücke im Handel erschienen, so dass dem Vergnügen, sich den subtilen pianistischen Fallstricken und Unregelmäßigkeiten in den Webmustern dieser Musik zu stellen, nichts im Wege steht.

EHERNES PULSIEREN

Gewiss, nicht jede der Philip Glass’schen Klavier-Etüden konfrontiert den Pianisten mit neuartigen spieltechnischen Schwierigkeiten. Geübt werden kann vor allem das Gleichmaß der Bewegung in der Überlagerung von metrisch geraden und ungeraden Figurationen, die Anmutung eines ehernen Pulsierens bis hinein in die harmonische Architektur der Stücke, auch die schiere Ausdauer in der Egalité des zeitlichen Flusses. Vielleicht mag man kritisieren, dass nicht beide Hände des Spielers vor die gleichen Probleme gestellt werden. Aber dies alles betrifft natürlich nicht den Hörer der Musik. Er kann unter diesen Etüden Stücke finden, deren strukturelle Statik sich bei zentriertem Lauschen unversehens zu verflüssigen scheint. So, als ob Farben sich aus ihren repetitiven Mustern lösten und sie in den unbestimmbaren Weiten des Atmosphärischen verschwimmen. Schweben wird möglich.

PHILIP GLASS: ETÜDEN FÜR KLAVIER

The Complete Piano Etudes
Maki Namekava (Klavier)
Label: Orange Mountain Music

Review – 20 Etudes and 20 Visuals Wound up the Ars Electronica Festival on a High Note

Linzer Festival Concluded Brilliantly with a Gesamtkunstwerk of Music by Philip Glass and Images by Cori Olan

An audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerk set amidst the industrial ambience of Linz’s PostCity brought the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival to a close on Monday evening. In this marathon performance of all 20 etudes by Philip Glass, pianist Maki Namekawa’s interpretations were accompanied by Austrian video artist Cori Olan’s visuals. This duo, which also staged this project’s world premiere in New York, conjured up a hypnotic experiment for the senses.

It is Linz’s great good fortune to be Namekawa’s new home-of-choice. A world-class specialist in Glass’ music and wife of Linz’s former general music director Dennis Russell Davies—whose 50th birthday Glass himself celebrated by writing some of the etudes—she has already performed several of the composer’s works, including the 20 etudes in 2014.

Between 1991 and 2012

They were created in phases between 1991 and 2012, whereby Glass initially wrote these exercises for himself but then composed increasingly advanced pieces for other artists of the keyboard. Thus, star pianist Vikingur Olafsson recently celebrated his Deutsche Grammophon debut with the etudes, some of which the composer had derived from other works.
Namakawa configured her interpretation somewhat less mechanically than her Icelandic colleague. She sometimes seems to flee from the melody line, only to abruptly return to it, whereby the fundamental theme of the interpretation as a whole remains high. At times, the Japanese woman cedes dominance to the left hand, shifts accents and rhythms, smoothes edges, underplays.
The interpreter understands that one cannot shuffle along in the cuddly flow of the repetition of these minimalistic works; rather, one must preserve the biting potency and the wealth of contrasts if one is to resist drifting off into arbitrariness. Glass creates a music that gyrates on the spot. Mostly, it does not move forward insistently, but rather lets the moment persist. It is a music that succeeds, if not in making time as such stand still, than at least making its passage a rather pleasant sojourn.

“Fantasia”

Cori Olan’s work superbly complements these sounds. Since Disney’s megalomaniacal “Fantasia,” visual artists have sought ways to translate instrumental music into images, and only a scant few have succeeded as paradigmatically as this Austrian. His visuals never insinuate themselves into the foreground or just react all too mechanically to the music; instead, they constitute the transposition of one world into the other. Three jumbo-format screens transformed the huge Gleishalle into an arc of imagery. Olan makes musical movements dance, expands a record album into a three-dimensional object and clockwork, dispatches blocks on their way into the endless expanses of perspective, and endows shingles with tiny feet so they can compete in a race.
Much of it corresponds to the associations immediately evoked by Glass’s always highly visual music—images such as fluid motions, water and wind. Often, though, these presumably organic forms also intentionally put their digital makeup on display and permit a glimpse of the grid behind the scenes. Here, like the etudes, one definitive creative signature cannot be ascribed to all the visuals. High-definition swaths of color are juxtaposed to graphics evoking the style of the 1980s, film sequences to abstraction, monochromes to colorful excesses. The spectator is occasionally reminded of the screen savers that used to pop up on monitors back in the old days, only to be overwhelmed once again by the plasticity of what is on display here, imagery coordinated to the music with consummate precision.

Linzer Festival Concluded Brilliantly with a Gesamtkunstwerk of Music by Philip Glass and Images by Cori Olan

An audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerk set amidst the industrial ambience of Linz’s PostCity brought the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival to a close on Monday evening. In this marathon performance of all 20 etudes by Philip Glass, pianist Maki Namekawa’s interpretations were accompanied by Austrian video artist Cori Olan’s visuals. This duo, which also staged this project’s world premiere in New York, conjured up a hypnotic experiment for the senses.

It is Linz’s great good fortune to be Namekawa’s new home-of-choice. A world-class specialist in Glass’ music and wife of Linz’s former general music director Dennis Russell Davies—whose 50th birthday Glass himself celebrated by writing some of the etudes—she has already performed several of the composer’s works, including the 20 etudes in 2014.

Between 1991 and 2012

They were created in phases between 1991 and 2012, whereby Glass initially wrote these exercises for himself but then composed increasingly advanced pieces for other artists of the keyboard. Thus, star pianist Vikingur Olafsson recently celebrated his Deutsche Grammophon debut with the etudes, some of which the composer had derived from other works.
Namakawa configured her interpretation somewhat less mechanically than her Icelandic colleague. She sometimes seems to flee from the melody line, only to abruptly return to it, whereby the fundamental theme of the interpretation as a whole remains high. At times, the Japanese woman cedes dominance to the left hand, shifts accents and rhythms, smoothes edges, underplays.
The interpreter understands that one cannot shuffle along in the cuddly flow of the repetition of these minimalistic works; rather, one must preserve the biting potency and the wealth of contrasts if one is to resist drifting off into arbitrariness. Glass creates a music that gyrates on the spot. Mostly, it does not move forward insistently, but rather lets the moment persist. It is a music that succeeds, if not in making time as such stand still, than at least making its passage a rather pleasant sojourn.Philip Glass and Maki Namekawa © Andreas H. Bitesnich

Philip Glass and Maki Namekawa © Andreas H. Bitesnich

“Fantasia”

Cori Olan’s work superbly complements these sounds. Since Disney’s megalomaniacal “Fantasia,” visual artists have sought ways to translate instrumental music into images, and only a scant few have succeeded as paradigmatically as this Austrian. His visuals never insinuate themselves into the foreground or just react all too mechanically to the music; instead, they constitute the transposition of one world into the other. Three jumbo-format screens transformed the huge Gleishalle into an arc of imagery. Olan makes musical movements dance, expands a record album into a three-dimensional object and clockwork, dispatches blocks on their way into the endless expanses of perspective, and endows shingles with tiny feet so they can compete in a race.
Much of it corresponds to the associations immediately evoked by Glass’s always highly visual music—images such as fluid motions, water and wind. Often, though, these presumably organic forms also intentionally put their digital makeup on display and permit a glimpse of the grid behind the scenes. Here, like the etudes, one definitive creative signature cannot be ascribed to all the visuals. High-definition swaths of color are juxtaposed to graphics evoking the style of the 1980s, film sequences to abstraction, monochromes to colorful excesses. The spectator is occasionally reminded of the screen savers that used to pop up on monitors back in the old days, only to be overwhelmed once again by the plasticity of what is on display here, imagery coordinated to the music with consummate precision.

100,000 Visitors

The only thing to pan about this evening was the audience itself. It would be impossible to imagine less suitable listeners for these fragile piano pieces than some of the festivalgoers who gathered in this jam-packed venue. Your run-of-the-mill digital artist obviously isn’t well enough acquainted with instrumental music to know to show up on time and not leave before it’s over, to keep the chatter down and refrain from noisily stomping about during the performance. They’re a shoo-in for the Prix Ars Electronica in the Most Ignorant Concert Audience category.
Nevertheless, after five etudes, even the rudest offenders had settled down. And finally, the evening—and, with it, this year’s Ars Electronica Festival—ended peacefully with the long 20th Etude and a red thread dancing for the sake of its own life. This was a worthy conclusion to this year’s event, which attracted 100,000 visitors.

(APA, September 12, 2017)