Cage: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 4: Solo for Piano; 34’46.776” for Two Pianists; Winter Music; Music Walk

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COMPOSERS: Cage
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 4: Solo for Piano; 34’46.776” for Two Pianists; Winter Music; Music Walk
PERFORMER: Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 613 0787-2
Even in this age of recorded completism, when every composer worth a reference-book entry can expect to be comprehensively represented on disc, Schleiermacher’s survey of Cage’s complete piano output remains a labour of love. In one sense pinning down some of the pieces included in the latest volume in a single studio performance goes against the grain of Cage’s intentions, for it was during the Fifties, the decade covered here, that he made the transition from scores in which chance played an important role in the compositional process, to those in which many more of the parameters of the music were left to chance in performance, and eventually became totally indeterminate. In Winter Music (1957), for instance, the score consists of 20 pages for one to 20 pianists (Schleiermacher makes a ten-fold multi-tracked version), who can play any part, for any length of time, at any dynamic level; Solo for Piano (1958), the piano part of the Concert for Piano and Orchestra, includes graphic notation, while Music Walk (1958) is a set of transparent sheets covered in dots and lines which must be assembled and interpreted as the pianist sees fit.

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A performance of one of these pieces could be likened to a single roll of the dice; throw the dice again, or let another pianist make his own version, and the results might be unrecognisably different. Yet Schleiermacher’s wonderfully dutiful accounts do give a real sense of the boundless world Cage was exploring, and the genuine, reflective poetry of the earlier miniatures like the Seven Haiku (1952) is elegantly revealed. Andrew Clements