Piano Etudes, Book 1
Vicky Chow (piano)
Cantaloupe CA 21183 58:33 mins
The interior melodies in the first of Philip Glass’s Etudes rise to the surface like foam on the seashore in Vicky Chow’s new recording of Nos 1-10 (Book 1), an impressive account of the first studies Glass wrote to improve his prowess at the piano. Chow’s own phenomenal technique is never in doubt here: the scurrying melodies in No. 9 are pin-sharp; the expansive phrases in No. 8 ebb and flow with careful restraint, and No. 6 is clean and crisp.
Composed between 1994 and 2012, the 20 Etudes are now evenly divided into two books, with several library-worthy complete recordings (for example Maki Namekawa on Orange Mountain) and mix ‘n’ match highlights, as included on Glassworks by Víkingur Ólafsson (DG). Chow has a distinctive approach to tempos, taking No. 4 at breakneck speed, elongating No. 5 and adopting dramatic rubato in No. 6. Sometimes this styling feels at odds with the bright-white cleanliness of the faster phrases (enhanced by the uncluttered acoustic); etudes such as No. 7 benefit from a less measured interpretation, with a Chopin-like touch. Chow impresses further in No. 10, where the the capering melody and mind-boggling drone accompaniment is balanced to perfection.