Ann SOUTHAM (1937-2010)
Glass Houses Revisited (1981, rev. 2009)
Christina Petrowska Quilico (piano)
rec. December 2010, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada.
CENTREDISCS CMCCD 16511 [58:06]
The late Ann Southam was a Canadian composer, whose early works were written in a Romantic style, and who later explored 12-tone composition and electro-acoustic works, before finally developing a minimalistic style, influenced by such composers as Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich. This album is a selection of pieces from her Glass Houses cycle, a series of piano pieces that combine repetitive elements of minimalism with lyrical melodic structures.
Glass Houses was originally composed in 1981, and later revised in 2009. Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, a long-time friend and collaborator of the composer, revised and edited them in 2010, shortly before the Southam’s death. This disc is a selection of the composer’s and the pianist’s favourite pieces from the series.
Before receiving this disc, I was familiar with another recording (Centrediscs CMCCD 14609) of her piano music: Simple Lines of Enquiry, played by Eve Egoyan, which is a Feldmanesque series of slow, gradual pieces for piano. Glass Houses Revisited is, in some ways, the flip side to that recording; these pieces are anything but slow, with fast, repeated melodic fragments embroidered into broader melodic structures.
The liner-notes, written by the pianist, say that these pieces are “fiendishly difficult ‘etudes’ for pianists”. Yet they lack the somewhat academic type of repetitive minimalism present in many of Philip Glass’s works, and are more static than Steve Reich’s works involving phase changes. They have a more melodic character than many minimalist-inspired works, with a jazzy element at times (Glass Houses #9), that turns them into foot-tapping, head-nodding tunes.
Enjoyable and easy to listen to, this is minimalist-inspired music that goes beyond that simple ‘moniker’. The music is excellently played. This is an attractive album that will interest fans of minimalism, as well as those interested in attractive piano music. Starkly different from Simple Lines of Enquiry, which may interest those who like Morton Feldman or ambient music, Glass Houses Revisited is a uniquely personal group of works.
Kirk writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville (http://www.mcelhearn.com).
A fine recording of minimalist-inspired piano pieces that combine motion and speed in a unique musical language.