Philip GlassPhilip Glass wrote twenty Piano Etudes over the course of about twenty years – first just a few, as a birthday gift for conductor Dennis Russell Davies, then as a way of improving his own playing. The composer and four other pianists will be playing the complete collection this Thursday as Stanford Live launches their season at the Bing Concert Hall.

There’s more information about the concert at the Stanford Live website.

The other pianists who’ll be joining Glass are Anton Batagov, Sarah Cahill, Aaron Diehl, and Jenny Lin, each playing two from the first ‘book’ of ten, and two from the second. Glass says that after the first few of the etudes were written, he decided to write 20, and use them for their original pedagogical purpose: “I picked things that were difficult to do, and I made pieces out of them.” Writing operas, symphonies, and film scores kept him from finishing the set until just a few years ago. Now, he describes the experience of hearing all of them played together as being like a musical biography, unintentional, but unavoidable. As his 80th birthday approaches at the end of January, he’s continuing a busy schedule, taking time last week to be awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.