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François Mardirossian offers a fine integral of the Studies of Philip Glass

Philip Glass (°1937) : Studies for piano, integral. Francois Mardirossian, piano. 2021. Leaflet in French and English. 135.00. A two CD album Ad Vitam AV 220315.

When he composed his Studies (between 1991 and 2012), Philip Glass had a double objective, specified in the highlight of the notice of this recording: First, expand my catalog for my solo concerts. Secondly, it was a way for me to develop my piano technique with music that made my playing evolve. Hence the name Etudes. The result is an ensemble that combines dynamics, tempo and emotion. The art of synthesis does not seem to hold any secrets for the composer.

The same type of approach seems to have prompted the French pianist François Mardirossian (°1989) to engrave a complete set of these Studies. After the Lyon Conservatory, this soloist lived in Brussels for ten years and went to the Royal Conservatory of Music in the capital, in the classes of Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden and Dominique Cornil. In 2019, he released, on the Megadisc label, a first album of piano works by the American Louis Thomas Hardin, known as Moondog (1916-1999). He is also the author of a beautiful collection of poetry, What Brussels hides in its sky (Ed. Chloé des Lys, 2018). For this transmission of the Glass pages, Mardirossian states: I hope I have been able to capture the essence of these pieces without locking them up or freezing them for my future interpretations. The ideal version of this immersive music would be one that would offer the public a perpetual first hearing, an endless listening. The pianist further emphasizes the timelessness and universality of these twenty musical moments. We could add the inscription in duration, so much so that its integral exceeds two hours because of the choice of its wide tempi.

A general impression stands out from the overall listening of these Studies, which can also be approached according to a selective and progressive choice, to come back to it on several occasions. This impression is that of a well-contrasted reading and a burst of notes, served by the clarity of the piano chosen: a Stephen Paulello Opus 102. Mardirossian plays with technical difficulties with ease, the discourse progresses with great power of expression. He takes into account the various climates that run through these pieces where virtuosity rubs shoulders with peaceful chords, where ardor gives way to fragility or pulsation to dream. It is indeed a musical “route”, built on an introspective inspiration which is revealed here shrouded in permanent clarity. We adhere as much to the rhythmic base as to sensitivity, to modesty as to leaping accents, to listening to silence as to languorous majesty.

Mardirossian recalls in a text of the notice that he attended in July 2007, at the “Nuits de Fourvière” in Lyon, at a concert during which Glass himself played his Studies fighting against the vagaries of the weather, a noisy rain having invited itself at that time. It was for the young performer one of his greatest musical moments. His love and respect for Glass’s score comes to life here.

The Japanese pianist Maki Namekawa, wife of conductor Dennis Russel Davies, a great friend of Philip Glass, of whom he created and recorded several symphonies, was the first to record, in a masterful way (OMM, 2013), a complete Studies. Other soloists followed, such as Nicolas Horvath (Grand Piano, 2015), Jenny Lin (Steinway, 2015), Jeroen Van Veen (Brilliant, 2017), Víkingur Ólafsson (DG, 2016), Anton Bagatov (OMM, 2017), Bojan Gorisek (Factory of Sounds, 2017) or Sally Whitwell (ABC Classics, 29018), each offering their own personalized vision of the whole. The choice is multiple. If these approaches are both different and complementary because of their degree of investment and imagination, that of François Mardirossian fully convinces. The pleasure he feels in distilling all the essence of this Glassian language is palpable on hearing, to which we subscribe without difficulty, with the feeling of having achieved the result he wanted and which we have already mentioned: take a personal musical look at a timeless and universal work. The recording was made in the Stephen Paulello Studio in Villethierry, in the Yonne department, from December 14 to 17, 2021.

Sound: 10 Record: 9 Repertoire: 10 Interpretation: 9

John Lacroix

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