COMPOSERS: Cage,Django Bates,Harvey,Talvin Singh & Deirdre Gribbin,Toovey
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Perilous Night
WORKS: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano
PERFORMER: Joanna MacGregor (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SC 003 (from SoundCircus, Freepost RG2558, PO Box 354, Reading RG2 7BR or www.soundcircus.com)
In truly Cageian manner the authentic way to review a disc of his music would be to write about something completely different. That said, the excellence of Joanna MacGregor’s readings of the Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, plus other works included on a finely packaged double CD set from the new label Soundcircus, makes one reach for conventional superlatives. Created by MacGregor in partnership with the award-winning CD journal Unknown Public, SoundCircus markets its discs only through mail order, concerts and the internet. Though this sounds like a short-sighted policy, in the longer term it may, in fact, give an extra cachet to performances as finely drawn as these, not only of the gamelan-like Sonatas and Interludes themselves, fierce, humorous and introverted by turns, but also Cage’s dark-toned The Perilous Night and his first prepared-piano piece Bacchanale.
From music by the younger generation, Andrew Toovey’s You may not (want) to (be) hear/here employs a Cage-like scenario, while Deirdre Gribbin’s The Broken Piece of the Moon makes Cage-like use of Tibetan chant. For these and other pieces, prepared piano and tape is the prescribed medium, enlivened by the sounds of tabla in Talvin Singh’s Endgame and by echoes from the past in Jonathan Harvey’s Homage to Cage, à Chopin. MacGregor also gets a disc to herself, a kaleidoscopic audio diary of snippets from masterclasses and rehearsals, with excerpts from Birtwistle’s Harrison’s Clocks that are effective tasters for a forthcoming disc of the complete collection on the SoundCircus label. Nicholas Williams