Cage: Triple-Paced; Totem Ancestor; Ad Lib; Jazz Study; Works of Calder

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WORKS: Triple-Paced; Totem Ancestor; Ad Lib; Jazz Study; Works of Calder
PERFORMER: Margaret Leng Tan (piano)
Two factors make this addition to Mode’s ongoing complete John Cage edition particularly delightful. Firstly, Margaret Leng Tan is without doubt the most empathetic pianist ever to be associated with the composer’s work. Secondly, it transpires that the source for much of this material is a box of miscellaneous manuscripts kept until 1993 in the office of Cage’s publisher, which contained works which the composer had either forgotten about or simply hadn’t got around to publishing. There’s something quite Cageian about that very process (or rather the lack of it) given his impatience with the conscious act of composition, but the music itself is, in some ways, surprisingly un-Cageian. The featured works include a couple of flirtations with jazz, which Cage was said at one time to dislike and which is treated here with a certain camp frivolity, like Billy Mayerl with a fit of the giggles, plus some excursions into film music incorporating narration by Burgess ‘The Penguin’ Meredith. However, despite the off-centredness of the programme, the music is capricious, lively, witty and quite charming. The performance, too, delivers exactly the right amount of good-natured humour. One for devotees and doubters alike. Roger Thomas