Philip Glass Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver BC - January 18, 2004

Perhaps more so than any modern composer, Maryland native Philip Glass has earned a loyal following among college-age listeners just as much for his soundtrack work (Kundun, The Hours and The Truman Show) as for his operas, orchestral pieces and his avant-garde electronics. Among those who confuse accessibility with populism, Glass is derided as a pop classicist, a misguided criticism motivated by a desire to preserve the classical realm for the privileged few. When the American took the stage at Vancouver's elegant Chan Centre — surely one of Canada's finest concert venues — he opened with "Mad Rush," a malleable piece originally composed for organ but interpreted on piano for this show. Here, Glass sketched out the evening's recurrent themes, his left hand anchoring the piece with a hypnotic rhythm and his right hand tracing out dainty melodies along the upper register. Next, he tackled "Metamorphoses," a series of four linked pieces inspired by Franz Kafka's short story of the same name. With this composition, the pianist revelled in the reiterative idiom that has become his trademark, giving a slight twist to a basic melodic pattern with each passing 16-bar sequence. The effect was that of a beauteous sketch being run through a gloriously malfunctioning photocopier, with each new impression retaining the form of the original while being imbued with its own unique subtleties. Later on, he played a series of eight etudes, brief compositions that found Glass breaking out of his reiterative box as he darted all over the keys with a sense of clinical abandon. Called back to the piano for an encore, the New Yorker graced us with "Opening," the introductory piece from 1982's Glassworks, a live favourite. Provoking shut-eyed meditation in those under his sway, the pianist caressed the keys, as if afraid of breaking the spell he'd so carefully cast.