Author Topic: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6  (Read 209 times)

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Offline aukhawk

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micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« on: September 03, 2020, 02:25:46 AM »
Here's a micro-blind comparison, using Philip Glass' Etude No.6
health warning - do not play this game if you're averse to the note F or in any way allergic to the frequencies around 350Hz   :laugh:

This Etude is in 6/4 time and has a tempo marking of crotchet=132.  Every recording I've heard - bar one - takes it faster - ranging between 'somewhat' faster and 'a lot' faster.  The composer's own recording for example, by my estimate adopts a tempo of 165.  These six samples range from an estimated 129 (the only recording slower than the marked tempo) to 240 (not quite the fastest on record in my collection, but close).
Besides tempo, there is quite a bit of variation in dynamics, legato etc between the six samples.
Some pianists seek to bring meaning to this music with rubato and pauses - including, perhaps surprisingly, the composer himself - while others find the message in the music itself and play it very straight.

I'll tell you straight away that the first sample - labelled G1 - is the composer himself.  He supposedly wrote these Etudes to improve his own piano technique - I think if you compare G1 with any of the other samples you'll agree that, at time of recording at least, he still had a way to go!  The remaining samples I've unashamedly arranged to provide contrasts in tempo.  They're only very brief - the shortest is 1m30, no surprise if the longest is about twice that - the chosen sample cuts in about 1m into the piece and fades after 2 'verses'.  It's a bit less than half the whole piece, basically you're hearing verses 2&3 of 5 (though performances vary with what repeats they observe).

6 mp3 files contained in a single zip:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BSWW2Dzuv_NM1kJVwi_GFGEnH8ZpsGga/view?usp=sharing

Supplemental - 3 more added in another single zip:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Foo5w-AWS93LitZ8kTcnvMmPcEOQ42tb/view?usp=sharing

I hope you enjoy.  (Crikey, he looks quite young here!)
 

« Last Edit: September 04, 2020, 04:57:38 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Brian

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2020, 05:56:02 AM »
Ooooh, interesting.

G1/Glass: Yeah, I can see what you're saying about his technique here in this early recording. Poor guy's struggling somewhat; an obvious tell (to me) is the tiny hairpin pauses between phrases where he is shifting his fingers/hands. But there is something warm and aspirational about the warmth of his playing, and the way that the melodic line floats upwards reinforces this impression, as does the rubato. It feels hopeful.

G2: Yikes! This is very staccato and the repeated F is so violent-sounding that I can't help wondering if the pianist enjoyed playing this. It sounds physically tiring to execute that with such force. It is mentally tiring to listen to.

G3: This sounds a lot like G1 but with slightly more state-of-the-art playing and recording. Maybe because it's Glass, I don't really have anything else to say here.  ;D

G4: Oh goodness, with tempos similar to G2, this person adopts a much lighter touch, with a great deal more dynamic shading and, unlike the first three, this person switches between legato and staccato playing. By far the most romantic performance; the climax of the clip actually sounds like it was written in the 1910s! Even at the start, I appreciate the natural ease with which the repeated F's sail upward into a melodic line. Clearly, for people who don't like Philip Glass, this is the recording to seek out. So far.

G5: At 1:29, this one is just frikkin' nuts.  ;D But the pianist's simultaneously both more machine-like than G2 and more interesting. They really attack the big climax as if it's by Rachmaninov, and the speed in the more Glassian sections of music creates an interesting series of contrasts between sudden flights of creative fancy and, well, fiddly sections of repeated notes. I'd like to watch video of this person playing.

G6: Is this pianist the first one to elongate certain repeated notes (like at 0:17 and 0:19)? Otherwise more in line with G3 and G1, not a lot of observation for me to make and not sure I could easily describe big-picture differences. The acoustic seems bigger and churchier.

My own preference is for G4, followed by G3/6, then G5, then Glass, then G2 last. Curious to see what other people think. This was a nice little mini-challenge.  :)

Offline aukhawk

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2020, 08:57:36 AM »
Thanks Brian!  G4 is my favourite overall the Etudes, although I don't actually think this clip shows him (or his fabulous piano) at his best.  G2 is mastered rather 'hot', with some brickwalling of the louder passages, I think it could sound a lot better without this.  G5 is indeed available to watch on YouTube (that is, same artist, same music, very similar but not identical performance).

Everyone, this entire listen will only take 15 minutes of your life.  (That you won't get back  :laugh: )

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2020, 10:09:53 AM »
Oh boy! My favorite! You may remember that you got me into these etudes with the last blind listening of this. It's been a while since I last listened. So this will be fun!!!!

G1 - It's always interesting to hear the composer in his own music, no matter how well he (or she) may play. A nice way to start.

G2 - It's too much. Not sure if it's the recording or the pianist, but it's VERY pingy and not pleasant to listen to. That said, as it goes on and you get away from the repetition to some degree, it does become much more musical. I'd love to hear this pianist in another venue perhaps.

G3 - I feel like I should write more slowly or something ! :) This speed for the opening is not attractive in my opinion. But once you get past the opening, there is some real beauty here. I could almost forgive the opening if not for the overdone rubato (at least for me). It creates an effect of making the music sound like it is difficult to perform, something I think negatively affects the music. So not entirely successful in my view.

G4 - Much more to my liking. Much more differentiation here in terms of dynamics and expression. I like this. A hair too much rubato for my taste, creating too much exaggeration.  But really well played with much to say (and quite nuanced in many ways). A very strong contender.

G5 - Oh lovely. Faster, but you hear all the notes. Much more nuanced and full of dynamic expression and drive. This performance exemplifies prodigious technique. It's possible G4 has a bit more emotional feeling to it, but this one is thrilling.

G6 - After G4 and G5, this opening feels a bit limpid. But as it progresses, it does start to use the longer phrasing to its advantage. But the echo/reverb is too strong for me. It has some similarity to G4 (in terms of being more lyrical), but that one does it so much better.

So it's a shootout between G4 and G5. I listened to G4 and G5 several times and it is really something to hear how differently they approach this and yet both work so well. G4 is more lilting and lyrical. It creates a powerful emotional response.  G5 is powerful and pulsating. and is simply breathtaking as can be. I love having two with such big contrasts between them (and yet both exhibiting great focus on detail). But forced to choose one, I'd go with G5. It's intense!

Thanks to aukhawk for providing this!!
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline aukhawk

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2020, 01:23:36 PM »
Oh boy! My favorite! You may remember that you got me into these etudes with the last blind listening of this. It's been a while since I last listened. So this will be fun!!!!

NO!!  You can not be serious!!  Have we done this before??   ???

Aargh I've lost it!!   :-[   It's all just an endless loop, repeating again and again and again ... ...

[edit to add - thankyou mc - can I call you mc? - and yes in due course I can post a link to G2 on YouTube playing Glass Etudes in a more mellow fashion which does the artist greater credit.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2020, 01:40:08 PM by aukhawk »

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2020, 04:04:51 PM »
NO!!  You can not be serious!!  Have we done this before??   ???

Aargh I've lost it!!   :-[   It's all just an endless loop, repeating again and again and again ... ...

[edit to add - thankyou mc - can I call you mc? - and yes in due course I can post a link to G2 on YouTube playing Glass Etudes in a more mellow fashion which does the artist greater credit.
It seems I was the only one to do that one, so perhaps understandable that you forgot about it (Feb 2018). But it opened my ears to new music that I really enjoy, It will be interesting to see if it is the same or a different crew! And it will be interesting to see, if there are some repeats, if my opinion has changed now that I know the piece better!
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline aukhawk

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2020, 04:56:10 AM »
Well - as Philip Glass has probably never said, I apologise for repeating myself.  Definitely a senior moment there!

However in the spirit of looping the loop repeatedly, I offer three more candidates, G7-9:

3 mp3 files contained in a single zip:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Foo5w-AWS93LitZ8kTcnvMmPcEOQ42tb/view?usp=sharing

this is one medium, one slow, one fast, and the last one is a later selection so you get all the same notes but not in the same order (as Eric Morcambe would say) up to the conclusion of the piece.

Of the 9 candidates in total:
only 2 are female
only 2 are not representative of a complete recorded set of 20 Etudes
only 1 is recorded live in concert

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2020, 03:57:22 PM »
Add on:
G7 - reminds me a bit of G2. It's too pingy and staccato. Yeah, this one is towards the bottom for me. The rubato is also overly exaggerated. It does soften in the more legato sections, but nowhere near enough to save this one.

G8 - Played better, but there is less detail in the phrasing and it lacks some nuance in dynamics. Too much sameness. Not terrible, but doesn't displace any of the top choices.

G9 - Super fast. There is so much reverb/legato that it loses details. The playing is pretty incredible, but this one is too one dimensional. Despite being fast, it doesn't have the intensity of G5, let alone all the little nuanced details that make G5 (and G4) so successful.

Thanks again! You can call me Neal. The mc was an addition when we had to alter our names some time back.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: micro-mini- blind comparison - Glass Piano Etude No.6
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2020, 01:43:42 PM »
Thankyou Neal.
G7 and G9 could be described as 'Glass specialists' in that they have both recorded a lot of piano music by Glass other than 'just' the 20 Etudes.  G9 is unique in presenting all 20 Etudes on a single CD - given that many other cycles span 2h30-ish this is (a) rather remarkable and (b) not necessarily a recommendation.
G8 is a version that I really disliked on first, second and third hearing - plodding, I thought - however I have lately revised these 1st 2nd and 3rd impressions, and now find there is a lot of integrity (spanning all 20 of the Etudes) in this recording - now 'up there' with my favourites which include all of G2 to G6, if pressed to just one I would go with G4 (for the set of 20 Etudes) or G5 (for just this Etude No.6).

If this thread doesn't progress I'll be PM-ing the results and identities to Brian and Neal in due course, without reviving the thread by adding a new posting here.
Still - it was fun while it lasted!   :)
« Last Edit: September 11, 2020, 01:51:26 PM by aukhawk »