When Philip Glass is at his best he's a magician weaving intricate wheels within wheels of rhythm that despite their almost mechanical nature and simple chromaticism are both powerfully moving and intellectually satisfying. His large scale works such as the dynamic Satyagraha and his earlier smaller scale works have an insistency that is infectious and human despite their repetitiousness. At his best Glass does quite a lot with his self imposed compositional limitations. I would say that his music is as near an analog as we get to our computer driven, gadget crazed life, and is the perfect marriage in sound of rigid control and human yearning. He and his fellow travelers in sound such as Terry Reilly, Steve Reich, and John Adams, did something else as well: they made rhythm cool again and ditched twelve tone serialism that had held classical music in its deadly grip for half a century.
Unfortunately with Solo Piano, Philip is far from his best. Though beautiful, the pieces aren't terribly interesting and the execution is less than rewarding. Metamorphosis 1 through 5 is essentially the same piece with variations between the different sections. But the execution is somewhat clumsy, and there is a paucity of timbral, and dynamic (not to mention compositional) variation. The pieces are pleasant enough but slight, being a bit too distilled. The same holds true for the other two, though I think Mad Rush is fairly interesting though too long. For me these pieces come off as sketches rather than finished works. Without the scoring, the timbral differentiation and larger scale Glass usually has in his music, these pieces seem unfinished. As for the playing, which could have saved this album, well, if a better piano player were involved these pieces would have more life. Glass isn't bad, a tad clumsy perhaps. But he's certainly a much better composer than he is a player. So there you have it, this album is interesting, pleasant even, but is closer to a collection of sketches than finished pieces. I give it a three. It's not something I'll listen to often, but it makes good background music.