Cage: Litany for the Whale; Aria; Aria No. 2; Five; The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs; Solo for Voice 22,

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COMPOSERS: Cage
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Litany for the Whale; Aria; Aria No. 2; Five; The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs; Solo for Voice 22,
PERFORMER: Theatre of Voices/Paul Hillier; Terry Riley (voice)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907279 Reissue (1998)
A tricky one. If you’re at all interested in John Cage you’ll have either loved or hated this CD when it was first issued several years ago. Cage’s scores often include indeterminate procedures and frequently rely on simple and unadorned vocal, instrumental and electronic sounds. At the time, this controlled, perfectionist, rather academic approach to Cage’s music was something of a novelty, but much of the spontaneity inherent in the music went missing. It’s a regrettable coincidence that over a period of time roughly equal to the age of this recording there has been a steady supply of CDs from several sources which have attempted to sanitise Cage’s output. Such music can be forced into any number of moulds, often with depressingly orderly results. Luckily, this disc includes several pieces which have extraordinarily strong identities (despite Cage’s wish to de-emphasise the importance of the composer), such as The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs and 36 Mesostics re and not re Marcel Duchamp, but the presentation of the music is so coolly formal that it’s likely to be tarred with the same brush, for good or ill. Buy it for the repertoire rather than because this style has become conveniently fashionable. Roger Thomas

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