MY FINEST MOMENT
Philip Glass Piano Sonata
Maki Namekawa (piano)
Orange Mountain Music OMM0149 (2021)
I know this piano sonata very well, more than anyone else – except Philip Glass. He composed this for me in 2019 and it’s his first ever piano sonata. We were waiting to release it until after the Philharmonie de Paris could present the work – it had already been premiered in Germany and Austria – but the French concert had to be postponed until May 2022, and they kindly agreed to let me record and release it in advance of that.
So last May at the height of the first wave of COVID-19, I began to organise the production of a CD and vinyl recording for the very first time! My jobs included booking the studio and recording engineer, plus arranging the packaging. It was so hard, but I knew that in the end there would be a recording that everyone would listen to, so that gave me hope. Of course, when you organise everything for yourself you know every detail and you can control it all. So in the end I loved doing it.
My earlier Orange Mountain recordings have always been produced by Michael Riesman, but international travel restrictions between the US and Austria made it impossible for this recording. Luckily for me, Erich Pintar, with whom I had worked in the past, was available to produce it and the recording sessions with him proved to be wonderfully rewarding.
We awarded this recording five stars. Read the full review here
MY FONDEST MEMORY
Shostakovich Symphony No. 4 (trans. piano four hands)
Maki Namekawa and Dennis Russell Davies (piano)
Supertrain Records STR003 (2019)
I recorded this with my husband, the conductor and pianist Dennis Russell Davies. Rehearsing can be very tricky as he has no time to practise the piano; so whenever we have a recording or a concert, he sometimes has to get up much earlier – he can be playing the piano at 4am.
On the recording day for this, we flew back from the US to Austria and went almost directly to the Brucknerhaus, in our hometown of Linz, to record. It’s so difficult to coordinate our schedules; it was the only time that worked.
It’s a huge, very thick piece which in German we’d call a dicker Schinken, or ‘big ham’, so it was quite a challenge. We were so concentrated on the music that we worked straight through until 5am.
The first movement starts out very dynamically – it’s very exciting – and the third movement is long and calm. We had to keep our concentration and energy, but we were so excited to start with the first movement. We also had to keep an eye on the time – I remember we looked at our watches; it was the middle of the night and we were still only on the second movement! After 15 hours of recording we felt like we were on another planet, but I think the recording turned out beautifully.
I’D LIKE ANOTHER GO AT…
Philip Glass Complete Piano Etudes
Maki Namekawa (piano)
Orange Mountain Music OMM0098 (2014)
These pieces have been part of an ongoing dialogue I have been privileged to enjoy with Philip Glass, and I have noticed as a result that my approach to them is evolving. Since 2012 I have performed the Glass Etudes on five continents, either as a complete solo programme or in combination with other pianists. I was still very young with these pieces when Philip suggested I record them, and I’ve performed them many times since. They sound different now that I’m older.
There is always a lot of anticipation from an audience when we get to Etude No. 20; it’s the final piece, but it isn’t at all showy, it’s actually very calm and magical. When I play for the audience now, I feel like we have a correspondence. I’m not afraid or nervous, and I really enjoy the piece.
I was always struck by Glenn Gould’s Bach; every time the tempos are a little bit different. I’m starting to do the same; some pieces I play a little bit quicker, but some I now play a little slower. Philip is always very kind and he will accept every pianist’s tempo. I think tempo is so important for the Etudes and this is why I would try to record them again.
Maki Namekawa’s recording of Philip Glass’s Piano Sonata is out now on Orange Mountain Music