Above: The original Dreaming Awake package including the work on CD, a facsimile of the Glass manuscript, and a number of the 500 copies which were created in 2003
In light of the recent comments about Philip Glass' piano prowess (or lack thereof), I thought it to pick something which would continue that conversation.
Dreaming Awake was composed and recorded in 2003 as a project to benefit Jewel Heart. It was a good cause but a steep financial proposition for Glass fans at the time. I myself coughed up the $150 (I think) plus shipping to obtain it since it was limited to 500 copies and was "never to be recorded by Philip Glass again."
Of course in 2003, downloading was less prevalent and if you wanted to hear this you'd have to buy it. But nowadays I believe there are sources on youtube or wherever where you can hear the piece. At 17 minutes, it's the longest piece for solo piano which Glass has written. And who knows, this may be the last new piano music which Glass ever has a chance to record. We've all been waiting these last seven years for the second volume of piano études which are reportedly all finished.
The piano playing on this recording is typical of Glass' style. As time goes on, his stylistic liberties have become more exaggerated (at 73 years old). To hear this, you simply need to listen to his playing on the Sony record Solo Piano. Even back then in the 1980s, he was not a piano virtuoso, but he was pretty decent and I always felt that his playing with lots of rubato (stretching of time) and dramatic yet restrained dynamic coloring did real justice to the idea of "this is the composer performing the music as it should be performed." This idea was strongly cemented for me with the release of the Aleck Karis recording of virtually the same repertoire on the Sony Solo Piano record, and to me, Karis' interpretations were straight readings of the pieces, highly technical, but missing 100% of the charm of Glass playing.
There are happy mediums, like Bruce Brubaker's interpretations of Glass' style and intent, with his own very high technical talent. Then there's the overly dramatic versions of these pieces by Arturo
Stalteri (but it's ok because he's Italian.) But to me, Glass' playing is what I want to hear. Not only for the piano music, but we can project that style, phrasing, dynamics on how his other music should also be heard. This part, is the proverbial "rub."
The original piano études were commissioned and premiered by Dennis Russell Davies a.k.a. the definitive interpreter of the Glass orchestral works. So it was a surprise to me to hear Davies' interpretation of the Glass études. All the charm and herky-jerky awkwardness of the Glass interpretations was no where to be found, neither was the rubato. For this you can take a listen to Glass' performance of étude no.2 versus Davies' performance. It's totally confounding to me.
So here we are back at Dreaming Awake. This is a lovely piece of piano music, written perhaps as with most of Glass' piano music, knowing that he'd be the interpreter so therefore it's not so difficult to perform. You hear the delays as the pianist needs to make mildly acrobatic changes in register, if you listen closely you can hear him playing with his fingertips so you hear his fingernails hitting the enamel of the keys. Not for one second do you mistake who is playing, but simultaneously that these musical thoughts originated and carry the conviction of their creator.