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About this Piece

If I’m to be remembered for anything, it will be for the piano music, because people can play it.

Philip Glass


There were a number of special events and commissions that facilitated the composition of the etudes by Philip Glass. The original set of six was composed for Dennis Russell Davies on the occasion of his 50th birthday in 1994. These etudes were later renumbered as Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10. Etude No. 6 was commissioned in 1994 by WNYC for John Schaefer’s new-music program under the original title “Now So Long After That Time.” Etude No. 7 was commissioned by the Sydney Festival in 1996. Etudes Nos. 12 and 13 were commissioned by Bruce Levingston in 2007 and premiered in New York at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Etude No. 17 was commissioned for the 25th Anniversary of the Menil Collection in Houston, TX, and premiered in 2012. The final three works, etudes Nos. 18, 19, and 20, were commissioned by the Perth Festival in 2012 in honor of Glass’ 75th birthday and premiered on February 16, 2013.


The 20 etudes for piano were composed during the years from 1991 to 2012. Their final configuration into Book 1 and Book 2 was determined by the music itself in the course of its composition.

Book 1 (Etudes Nos. 1 through 10) had a twin objective—to explore a variety of tempi, textures, and piano techniques. At the same time, it was meant to serve as a pedagogical tool by which I would improve my piano playing. In these two ways, Book 1 succeeded very well. I learned a great deal about the piano and in the course of learning the music, I became a better player.

New projects came along and interrupted the work on the etudes for several years. Perhaps for that reason, when I took up work with the etudes again, I found the music was following a new path. Though I had settled questions of piano technique for myself in Book 1, the music in Book 2 quickly began to suggest a series of new adventures in harmony and structure.

In this way, Books 1 and 2, taken together, suggest a real trajectory that includes a broad range of music and technical ideas.

The pianists performing this evening were chosen for their high level of technical accomplishment, wide range of musical backgrounds, and the depth of their interpretive skills. Some of them, besides being known as performers and interpreters, are well known as composers in their own right. I am grateful to all of them for their personal efforts and generosity in bringing their own voice and interpretation to these works that are so meaningful to me.


The piano etudes are Philip Glass’ most personal body of work. A self-portrait of a composer’s work and practice, for us, the complete etudes represent some of his most evocative and inventive music.

For over 30 years, we have worked alongside Philip as producers of his live touring work. We have had the privilege of witnessing the evolution of the etudes over time and have secured commissioning and performance opportunities for Philip that ensured their completion. The etudes are now the most performed and recorded of Philip’s works and have become a staple of the contemporary classical repertoire. They have been played on the world’s stages by pianists working in diverse genres, arranged for countless instruments and chamber ensembles, and set to dance by prominent choreographers.

Beloved by the world’s great pianists and amateurs alike, the etudes have become an integral part of daily practice for artists of all mediums, as they were originally intended.

We are thrilled to be celebrating his historic body of work here at Walt Disney Concert Hall with a program of five distinguished pianists who include longtime interpreters and collaborators, protégés and friends.

This concert also celebrates the release of a special box set edition of Philip Glass Piano Etudes (Artisan), which includes 20 individual newly engraved folios of music and Studies in Time, a collection of newly commissioned writings by artists, composers, writers, and thinkers. It was inspired by the many anecdotes of artists who use Philip’s music as an inspiration and engine, fueling their own process. Taking the Glass etudes as their prompt in Studies in Time, our contributors offer the reader a kaleidoscopic look at the creative process—sharing musings on an artist’s personal practice, the relationship to a technical challenge over a lifetime, the act of listening, and, in some cases, their collaborations with the composer himself.

Still in the wake of the COVID pandemic, we are rebounding from this lost time in history, discovering its long-term ramifications as we move forward. For many artists, the isolation of the pandemic forced a period of deep reflection and provided an opportunity to revisit the very foundations of their practice. And for many enthusiasts, the pandemic allowed the time to pursue a course of personal study that may or may not be carried forward and developed in the years to come.

Evoking the generosity of spirit that has been at the heart of the composer’s life, the Glass etudes offer an invitation to listen deeply and experience the inner life of an artist at work.

We hope that it will inspire your own lifetime of practice.

Linda Brumbach and Alisa E. Regas

Creative and Executive Producers