Lisa Kaplan is one of four pianists who will join composer Philip Glass to perform his complete Piano Etudes this weekend at Loeb Playhouse. Saturday night’s concert is part of the dedicatory recitals for the new Steinway concert grand piano, and marks Glass’s third visit to Purdue (he was here twice in the 1980s).
Born in Motown, Lisa Kaplan is a pianist specializing in the performance of new work by living composers. Kaplan is also the founding pianist of the three-time Grammy Award-winning sextet eighth blackbird. She has won numerous awards, performed all over the country and has premiered new pieces by hundreds of composers, including Andy Akiho, Derek Bermel, Jennifer Higdon, Amy Beth Kirsten, David Lang, Nico Muhly, George Perle and Steve Reich. Kaplan has had the great pleasure to collaborate and make music with an eclectic array of incredibly talented people - Mario Batali, Jeremy Denk, Bryce Dessner, Glenn Kotche, Gustavo Santaolalla, Steve Schick, Robert Spano, Dawn Upshaw and Michael Ward-Bergeman to name a few. Recently she has greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to do some composing and arranging for eighth blackbird. Kaplan is a true foodie, gourmet cook, avid reader, crossword and Scrabble addict, enjoys baking ridiculously complicated pastry and loves outdoor adventures. She has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, braved the Australian outback, stared an enormous elephant in the face in Tanzania’s Ngorogoro Crater and survived close encounters with grizzly bears in the Brooks Range of Alaska.
Music Director John Clare had a chance to interview Kaplan about this performance.
1) How did this come about? Are these etudes you played before?
So, they have been doing these etude concerts for several years now and this is the first time I've been able to participate. We are doing the performance first at U of Chicago and then coming to Purdue the following day. I've played a fair bit of Philip's music, but the etudes are new for me!
2) Do you have favorites of the etudes - and besides playing these in "concert", are they good "study" pieces for pianists?
Yes, I think the etudes are definitely good study pieces. They are actually very fun to work on. Figuring out and understanding the repeating structures, and trying different voicings etc. I love #12. For me it is rather like playing Bach, though I suppose since it's Glass, less actually happens with the harmony. lol :) But that just means than when a harmonic change DOES happen, it is EPIC.
3) You play lots of new music with eighth blackbird, is it daunting or inspirational (or a bit of both) to perform with the composer present?
I have had the honor of performing with PG before. He has performed with eighth blackbird on Music in Similar Motion and it was really a fantastic experience. I love playing with composer/performers, they always know exactly how the music is supposed to go.
4) Have you been to Purdue before?
Not that I can recall, no.
5) Collaboration with composers is more common, and more and more performers are playing/mixing genres (I'm thinking Penderecki and Johnny Greenwood) - how cool/rare is it to share a concert with four other pianists?
I suppose it's not that common to share a concert with 4 other pianists. I am so looking forward to it! Timo is a good friend (he's written a great piece for the whole group, coming out on our CD "Hand Eye" in April) and I'm excited to meet the other pianists who I know by name and reputation, but have never had the opportunity to meet.
Philip Glass: The Complete Piano Etudes takes place Saturday, February 20th at 7pm. There is a pre-concert talk at 6pm with Judd Danby. There’s more at Convocations.org.
Hear the etudes at: