horizontal line

Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólafsson, signed to the Yellow Label in 2016, provides his own eloquent booklet notes for this important release. In them, he acknowledges his connection to the composer, and indeed throughout there is the feeling of a certain rightness.

Take the opening of Glassworks. Previously I much enjoyed Nicolas Horvath’s account of this (GP677), quicker than Ólafsson. Yet it is the newcomer who seems to draw us into a perfectly ululating wave of ‘Glassness’. The DG sound (from Rejkjavik’s Harpa Hall) is more inviting, too: warm yet allowing through every detail. The end hangs deliciously in the air. Christian Badzura’s ‘reworking’ which closes the album, sheds new light, softening the sound but also adding the possibility of new drama.

The sequencing of the Etudes is impeccable. No 2 is an oasis of stillness; it is also the sole Etude reworked by Badzura for piano and quartet, where the bed of string sound adds an undercurrent of tenderness. In contrast, No 6, with its decidedly monumental aspect, indicates the sheer variety of moods on display. The Lisztian aspect is honoured as convincingly here as it was in Ólafsson’s 2015 Barbican performance (wherein the complete Etudes were performed by five pianists, one of them Glass himself). No 5 becomes a miniature tone-poem: Ólafsson’s ability to paint with a thousand colours is magnificent. The active No 13 gives way to the melancholy of No 15 (an emotional equivalent, perhaps, to No 18). The last Etude is the longest and breathes a Brahmsian sense of twilight.

While Horvath offers the complete Glass Etudes spread over two discs, Ólafsson’s performances are so perfectly realised this becomes the go-to disc for Glass lovers.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing