Glass, Cage

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Arabesque
WORKS: Metamorphosis; Mad Rush; Satyagraha: Act III, Conclusion
PERFORMER: Bruce Brubaker (piano)
The booklet note remarks on Brubaker’s ‘splendid audacity’ in yoking together two such contrasted composers as John Cage and Philip Glass. It would have been audacious if Cage had got more than 10 minutes out of 63. As it is, we get vast swathes of Glass’s hypnotically repetitive music, in which two exquisitely gentle and ruminative Cage miniatures appear like oases. But even these have to be wrapped up in the general atmosphere of meditative, circling ritual – Brubaker has avoided the witty and rhythmically inventive side of Cage, which would have made such a striking (and to this listener, very welcome) contrast. It must be said, Brubaker makes the best possible case for Glass’s piano music. He plays those sudden bursts of loud, wrist-breaking figuration with machine-like strength and precision (too well, in a sense – you begin to wonder whether a computer-driven keyboard wouldn’t have done the job as well). Elsewhere he shows a more human touch, as in the building climax of Satyagraha, where he achieves a colossal orchestral sonority. In the quieter pieces, particularly Cage’s Dream, it’s the engineer who’s the real performer, coaxing a sound of unearthly beauty from the piano. Ivan Hewett