Cage The Seasons

Cage receives strong advocacy from Tan in highly sympathetic and fastidious readings of some of his most evocative works

Author: 
Peter Dickinson
Cage The Seasons

CAGE The Seasons

  • (The) Seasons
  • Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra
  • Seventy-Four

This is an enchanting CD, every item a sheer delight. Margaret Leng Tan worked with Cage in the last decade of his life and her earlier recordings (1/92; 7/95) show a special sympathy for the magical world of Cage's keyboard music. The second of her New Albion CDs included the piano solo version of The Seasons, and Cage was honest enough to admit to her that he had help from Virgil Thomson and Lou Harrison in making the orchestral version recorded here. The result is recognisably Cage at his most poetic, evoking each of the four seasons in lovely changing colours.
There are two realisations of one of the last of what are called Cage's 'Number Pieces', Seventy-Four, written specially for the American Composers Orchestra a few months before his death in 1992. Several hearings have confirmed for me that this seamless garment of sustained sound in two overlapping parts is an immensely moving document from a unique human being at the very end of his life. Anyone who responds to the spiritual minimalism of Part, Gorecki or Tavener will understand, especially in these dedicated performances.
Then the Concerto for Prepared Piano (1951), which first became familiar on the Nonesuch LP as long ago as 1967 (with Takahashi and the Buffalo Philharmonic under Lukas Foss), takes its rightful place as the major classic for the transformed instrument with orchestra - a status emphasised by this fastidious performance with its delicate sonic tapestry, including discreet radio, all reflecting Cage's absorption with oriental philosophy.
Tan has recorded the Suite for Toy Piano (1948) before. This time the sound is closer, you can hear her in-breath just before some movements, and we could have done with more precise rhythms. Lou Harrison's orchestration is perfectly in the spirit and it makes a fascinating complement - Cage writing memorable tunes!
Like the Theatre of Voices CD (8/98), this ECM disc shows that much of Cage has now entered the mainstream - off the avant-garde ticket altogether - and his music is unique.

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