Sally Whitwell on why the American iconoclast’s solo piano music has “heart”.

Minimalism has come of age. The two elder statesmen of the movement, who revolutionised so-called classical music in the 1960s with their hypnotic rhythms, will celebrate their 75 thbirthdays within the next year: Steve Reich in October and Philip Glass in January 2012. The two composers once worked together in Manhattan as furniture removalists, lugging pianos and bookshelves in and out of New York apartments. Now, they are considered living legends not only in the rarefied world of art music but also as cult figures for younger generations of listeners and performers.

One such performer is Sydney-based pianist Sally Whitwell, whose debut album of music by Philip Glass, Mad Rush, has rocketed to number three in the classical ARIA charts since its release in June. An adventurous project for ABC Classics, it has proven something of a surprise hit, not least thanks to Glass’s broad appeal across genre and age divides.

Whitwell has been astonished by the way the public has embraced the music. “Many of the people who have made contact with me about it aren’t just classical music people,” she explains. “A lot of them listen...