Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano; The Perilous Night; Two Pastorales; Daughters of the Lonesome Isle; Mysterious Adventure; Bacchanale

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COMPOSERS: Cage
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano; The Perilous Night; Two Pastorales; Daughters of the Lonesome Isle; Mysterious Adventure; Bacchanale
PERFORMER: Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 613 0781-2
Transforming the piano by inserting bits and pieces between its strings might appear limiting. But, as the German pianist Steffen Schleiermacher’s performances of John Cage’s music for prepared piano show, the inventor of this delightful ‘extended’ instrument brought astonishing imagination and resourcefulness to his task. These three discs are not only carefully prepared (in all senses), but also the first to assemble the composer’s complete works for his invention in a single set.

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From the coarse percussiveness of Bacchanale to the subtleties of Mysterious Adventure, from the shimmering gamelan sounds of Daughters of the Lonesome Isle to the chance-derived pointillism of Two Pastorales, Cage writes captivatingly for his one-man percussion orchestra. The Sonatas and Interludes occupy the third CD, complementing so many rarely-heard pieces with the more familiar, and glorious, culmination of the composer’s prepared-piano output.

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The American Joshua Pearce, on Wergo’s ‘Edition John Cage’, offers much of this repertoire interspersed with other Cage on separate discs. But the often slower Schleiermacher is more faithful to the spirit of the music’s fragile poetry. Quite good documentation. Keith Potter