Cage: The Seasons; Metamorphosis; In a Landscape; Ophelia; Quest

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COMPOSERS: Cage
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Cage: Early Piano Music
WORKS: The Seasons; Metamorphosis; In a Landscape; Ophelia; Quest
PERFORMER: Herbert Henck (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 476 1515
One of the great ironies of Cage’s compositional philosophy as it would finally develop was that his desire to remove the will of the composer from the compositional process simply shifted this burden of consciousness, as it were, onto the music’s performers. This makes his earlier music intriguing, dating as it does from a time when relatively conventional influences such as ballet music, Schoenberg’s tone-rows and the gentle detachment of Satie, whom Cage greatly admired, were more prevalent in the composer’s thinking. Indeed, doubters should head directly for the Satiesque In a Landscape, its gently evocative structure leading the listener to a final chord which is ‘played’ using only partial key pressure, relying on the releasing of both pedals to produce barely-discernible harmonics; Cage’s notoriety was derived from his more overtly radical ideas, but he was equally capable of more subtle kinds of subversion. This sonically immaculate CD is packed with such eminently approachable, slightly puckish music which typifies Cage’s work during the period, with Metamorphosis and Ophelia being further highlights.

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There are fine alternative versions in MDG’s series of Cage’s piano music, but Henck is particularly adept at preserving the composer’s unique musicality which is often over-sanitised by modern performance and production techniques. Roger Thomas