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Somehow, the objectivity of the sound of a piano suits the music of Philip Glass perfectly. Certainly that’s how it seems in Nicolas Horvath’s expert performances on this, the first of a series of Glass recordings.

The Opening from Glassworks (1981) exudes calm in its echt-Glassian construction. The programming is impeccable here, with the first movement of the Orphée Suite, The Café, at once immediately related to Glassworks but more external, more ragtime. The suite is a transcription of music from the Glass opera of the same name, a retelling via Cocteau of the Orpheus myth.

If the delicacy of Orphée’s Bedroom is as heady as the most Impressionist perfume, it could hardly stand in higher contrast to Orphée’s Journey to Hell, a nightmarish tone poem that immediately makes clear the composer’s affinity with film (one is reminded of his awe-inspiring soundtrack to the 1931 Dracula). The sheer beauty of the melodic line of Orphée and the Princess is stunning in this performance, while Orphée’s Return finds myth morphing into fairytale.

Dreaming Awake (2003) is a world premiere recording, in itself making this a mandatory purchase, and Horvath projects the music’s energy perfectly. The much earlier (1968) How Now comes up against stiff competition in the shape of Schleiermacher (Dabringhaus). Influenced by Indian raga and gamelan as well as jazz, How Now is a virtuoso piece in which the piano seems to transcend its own boundaries and where the sustaining pedal transports the listener to whole new worlds. Horvath in no way loses out to Schleiermacher. Volume 2 is eagerly awaited.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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