Cage: Music for Two Pianos. – sound recording reviews
Reviewed by Allan Ulrich
Five years after his death, composer John Cage remains an inspiring cultural force, the source of an unshakable aesthetic about the nature of music; he can be debated, but he cannot be ignored. This survey of music for two pianos spans 45 years, a period during which Cage consolidated and disseminated his theory of chance operations.
One of the earlier pieces, the lyrical, Satie-inspired Experiences, was written for dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham, Cage’s partner and artistic collaborator for almost five decades. (When once asked to define their relationship, Cage said, “I do the cooking, and Merce washes the dishes.”) “Three Dances” reveals Cage’s debt to Henry Cowell in the use of “prepared” piano, a process by which the innards of the instrument are invaded by a variety of foreign objects, yielding sonorities undreamed of by Schubert.
The extraordinary two-piano team Double Edge (Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles) sustain their reputation for making the thorniest contemporary scores sound fresh and inviting. “[Two.sup.2]” (1989) epitomizes both the liberty and strictures of chance procedures. The two pianists are set adrift to perform a series of notes (or events) without any rigid time indication. Interaction is everything, and the results are uncommonly seductive.
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