Menu Close

Pianists Maki Namekawa and James McVinnie perform Philip Glass’s 20 “Études for Solo Piano” at the Bold Tendencies in London.

Since 2007, Bold Tendencies, a non-profit arts organisation, has been offering different artistic activities in a disused car park in the London borough of Peckham (7th-10th Floors Multi-Storey Car Park, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, London SE15 4ST). This year they have organised a programme of concerts that began on 19 May and will end on 16 September, which has included, among other activities, a performance by the English pianist and organist James McVinnie of works by Philip Glass for organ, which took place on 17 June. Tomorrow Saturday, 2 September, Philip Glass will once again be the musical protagonist of the evening, with his twenty Études for Solo Piano, performed by McVinnie and the Japanese pianist Maki Namekawa. Written between 1991 and 2012, the etudes were written with the aim of training one’s ability to play all kinds of dynamics – ranging from pianissississimo to fortissimo and all the gradations in between: mezzo forte, mezzo piano, piano, crescendo, forte, sforzando, ritardando, pianissimo, diminuendo…- and technical skills – from legato to stacatto, passing through arpeggios, chords, triplets, chromatic scales, jazz rhythmic patterns or different techniques in each hand, ornaments such as trill, grupetto or mordente, etcetera, etcetera-. As can be read on Philip Glass’s website, the first six studies were written for Dennis Russell Davies -also a pianist, as well as chief conductor of the Brno Orchestra- on the occasion of his 50th birthday.

Divided into two books, Études Nos. 1 to 10 belong to Book 1, which he began composing in 1991. Book 2, comprising numbers 11 to 20, was begun between 1992 and 1994 (he wrote six more Études to add to the first ten) but was not completed until 2012, when they were premiered.

In the recital, which will be performed exclusively on piano, Namekawa will play Etudes 1 to 6 and McVinnie from 7 to 10. After an intermission, the Japanese pianist will perform Etudes 11 and 12 and the Englishman from 13 to 18. Finally, Namekawa will play Etudes 19 and 20. The Japanese pianist is closely linked to Glass, as her husband is Dennis Russell Davies, a great friend of Glass, whose compositions, including the opera Akhnaten, were given their world premieres at the Stuttgart State Opera in 1984. It was she, moreover, who performed the world premiere of the complete cycle of the twenty Etudes at the 2013 Perth International Arts Festival, and her recording of the work (the first) was released in 2014 on Glass’s Orange Mountain Music label. In 2019 Philip Glass wrote his first Piano Sonata especially for her.

© Photograph by Fernando Aceves downloaded from the Bold Tendencies website.