Cage: Chorals; One6

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Chorals; One6
PERFORMER: Irvine Arditti (violin)
If you were as impressed as I was by Irvine Arditti’s staggering performances of John Cage’s more-difficult-than-they-sound Freeman Études a few years back (Mode 32 & 37), you’ll probably be interested in his follow-up volume in Mode’s complete Cage violin music survey. The 1978 Chorals alter the pitches of Satie’s Socrate in microtonal increments, based on chance operations. Arditti shaves about one minute off Paul Zukofsky’s 1991 premiere recording (Musical Observations) and connects Cage’s recalcitrant pitches with a greater sense of colour and line.


As with the other compositions in Cage’s 40-odd ‘number pieces’, One6 involves single notes placed within what the composer calls ‘time brackets’. The performer is presented with a range of choices as far as beginning, ending and sustaining pitches. Arditti stretches out these notes in endless arcs, with virtually undetectable changes in bow, maintaining high tension even in the long silences. This kind of music makes Morton Feldman’s protracted time-scale seem hasty by comparison. One6 requires you to listen with the same single-minded patience and concentration that Arditti brings to his performance. While I can’t pretend to love these pieces, nor preach it to the unconverted, my rating nevertheless reflects Arditti’s fierce commitment and painstaking musicianship. Jed Distler