LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: Music for One Piano; Music for Two Pianos I & II; Music for Three Pianos; Music for Four Pianos; Music for Five Pianos; Electronic Music for Two Pianos
PERFORMER: Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 613 0784-2
With Vol. 2 of Cage’s piano music, the excellent and thoughtful German pianist Steffen Schleiermacher turns to the large-scale, indeterminately composed Music for Piano, 85 pieces that occupied Cage mainly between 1952 and 1956. To both solo and multiple piano versions of these is added Electronic Music for Two Pianos (1964).
The result is just over two and a half hours of notes selected by chance operations. Each is articulated separately, though they frequently overlap and are occasionally interspersed with long silences. Some pitches are plucked or muted; percussive sounds made on, or inside, the piano and electronic sounds are also used. All this will prove frustrating for many. Knowing of Cage’s aversion to recordings must undermine the enterprise a little.
The sympathetic listener is, however, helped by Schleiermacher’s own booklet essay which, though not answering all my questions about his interpretation, elucidates the decision-making he had to undertake. His own seriousness and dedication should encourage more people to attune ears and mind to this composer’s approach. The experience challenges, forcefully and imaginatively, both one’s conceptions and perceptions of what music is. Patient listeners will find these two well-recorded discs rewarding. Keith Potter