With Permission: Reprinted from philipglass.com:
GLASS PIANO — by Bruce Brubaker
Philip Glass’s piano music is personal. He plays it himself. And,
some of the rest of us pianists play these pieces too!
At the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, in a public
conversation with me and Jon Magnussen, Philip said: “Every music
has its own style of performance, and every new music has to have a
new style of performance, otherwise it's not new."
In Princeton, we talked about how musicians are coming along today
who play music that seemed almost impossible when it was new.
Sometimes performers do exactly what the writer of a piece had in
mind. Sometimes though, performers do something quite
different—unintentionally, or willfully.
I think Philip’s piano pieces lead to what can be called “molecular"
piano playing. In some pieces, my desire to maintain an unbroken
sound fabric of repeating note-patterns challenges the resources of
some pianos—pianos that would seem of the highest quality in music
by Beethoven! Glass’s hypnotic, slow shifts call for an instrument
that produces no accidental lumps. There can be no notes prone to
stick out, no unmatched voicing of the hammer felts, no unequal
regulation of the action mechanism. And the greatest tonal equality
must sometimes be attained at the softest dynamic levels—something
not required in most traditional classical repertory.
Glass’s piano music has taught me how to play the instrument better,
and listen with more subtlety. The loud, fast repetitions of Mad
Rush yield more left-hand finger acuity. Long passages of
moderately slow unchanging two-note ostinato allow for the
heightened perception of rhythm in time. Micro-inflections can have
large musical impact.
Philip has described his realization that theatrical work by Samuel
Beckett is actually completed by each audience member at each
performance. Roland Barthes declared the omnipotent “author" dead,
in the 1960s. The kind of participatory involvement Philip (and Barthes) advocate for the audience applies to performers too. No
matter what the performer’s intentions, or the composer’s wishes,
each new reading (and each different instrument) adds to, reveals
more of, and even alters, the complete identity—the complete range
and possibility—of the music being played and heard.
Philip has written: “Art objects—be they paintings, string quartets,
or plays—don’t exist or function by themselves as abstract entities.
They function and become meaningful only when there are people
Once, when I went to play for him, Philip said, just as I was about
to begin Mad Rush, “Let’s see what you have to say in this piece."
Bruce Brubaker, piano
“A rapt audience let the
silence linger, then broke into whoops and cheers." - The New York Times
“Bruce Brubaker is one of the most exciting pianists in the
contemporary American classical scene." - Pitchfork
“Brubaker’s playing was seriously beautiful, effusively expressive."- The Boston Globe
With more than 150 million streams on Spotify, Bruce Brubaker reaches a large, diverse audience. According to Pitchfork: “Bruce Brubaker is one of the most exciting pianists in the contemporary American classical scene." In his continuing performances, from the Hollywood Bowl and New York’s David Geffen Hall, to London’s Barbican and the Philharmonie de Paris—Bruce Brubaker is a visionary virtuoso.
Brubaker is featured on Meredith Monk’s album Piano Songs (ECM) and Nico Muhly’s album Drones (Bedroom Community). Brubaker has performed with John Cage, Meredith Monk, and Nico Muhly. For Arabesque, Brubaker recorded albums featuring music by Philip Glass and John Adams. For the French label InFiné, Brubaker’s albums include Glass Piano, Codex, and the forthcoming Eno Piano. Dance music and electronica artists, including Plaid, Max Cooper, Francesco Tristano, Donato Dozzy, and Akufen have remixed Brubaker tracks.
Brubaker was one of the first solo pianists to play the music of Philip Glass. The New York Times has written: “Few pianists approach Philip Glass's music with the level of devotion and insight that Bruce Brubaker brings to it, precisely the reason he gets so much expressivity out of it." According to French critic Roland Duclos:
“Brubaker is to Glass what Glenn Gould is to Bach."
Bruce Brubaker has performed Mozart with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Brahms on the BBC. Brubaker has appeared at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, Tanglewood, the Gilmore Festival, London’s Wigmore Hall, France’s International Piano Festival at La Roque d'Anthéron, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, BOZAR in Brussels, Antwerp's Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Sónar festival in Barcelona.
Brubaker trained at the Juilliard School, where he received the school's highest award, the Edward Steuermann Prize, upon graduation. He taught at Juilliard for nine years. He is now a member of the faculty and Curator of Piano Programming at New England Conservatory.