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John Cage: Early Piano Music

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Product details

  • Audio CD (19 Dec. 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM New Series
  • ASIN: B0007YH4LC
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,998 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. The Seasons (1947) Prelude I
2. Winter
3. Prelude II
4. Spring
5. Prelude III
6. Summer
7. Prelude IV
8. Fall
9. Finale (Prelude I)
10. Metamorphosis (1938) I
11. II
12. III
13. IV
14. V
15. In a Landscape (1948)
16. Ophelia (1946)
17. Two Pieces for Piano (c 1935, rev.1974) I Slowly
18. II Quite fast
19. Quest (1935)
20. Two Pieces for Piano (1946) I
See all 21 tracks on this disc

Product Description

John Cage's early piano music (from the 1930s and 1940s) is the subject of German pianist Herbert Henck's new album. This is beautiful music, played with great sensitivity.
Cage's name is so closely identified with experimental, dissonant and radical music making, with the idea that anything - including "silence" itself - can be music, that we tend to forget how uniquely lyrical and beautiful his early compositions are.

Two years ago, ECM issued Henck's account of Cage's 'Sonatas & Interludes for Prepared Piano', which many critics felt was a definitive reading of this important work, offering new insights by combining it with Henck's spontaneous improvisations, also for prepared piano.

Now Henck goes back to the pieces that preceded and set the scene for 'Sonatas and Interludes'. These include The Seasons, previously heard on ECM in the orchestral version played by the American Composers Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies and 'In A Landscape', one of the first Cage's "oriental meditations" persuasively played by Alexei Lubimov on 'Der Bote'.

Cage's early piano pieces are amongst the most "accessible" of 20th century compositions, at times they seem closer to Satie than to the dissonant Cage of the later years.

Each of Henck's albums is a kind of composer portrait, offering acute insight into the personality and musical thought of the music's authors. This is the latest in a series of remarkable recordings casting new light on some of the 20th century's most independent musical voices - it follows Federico Mompou, Alexandr Mosolov, George Antheil, Conlon Nancarrow and Jean Barraqué.

Recorded 2002

Herbert Henck - piano

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By pjr VINE VOICE on 6 Oct. 2010
Format: Audio CD
John Cage is a name almost inextricably linked with the avant garde classical music of the late 20th Century. His approach to music was pioneering, original, and (to many a casual listener) difficult. The rewards are there to be had but it's almost about understanding the concept as much as the music itself. Yet buried away in every composer's repotoire there are pieces which provide easier access.

Cage's early works for piano may provide a way in for some. They are, in the main, sparse and filled with the fascinations with space and silences which would inform some of his later major works. There are 21 pieces here most short, in some cases almost slight, affairs and a couple of more substantial works.

The music has a feel more anchored to early 20th Century piano music with, as the notes on the product page attest, a large debt to Satie. There is a shifting beauty in some of the pieces here which is coupled at times with harsh edges which make for a more challenging listen. The likes of "Summer" and pieces "I", "II", and "III" seem to display an aptitude and understanding of the form he is working within and yet there is a nagging sense of wanting to break free from it. The longer pieces of "III" and "Ophelia" betray this sense with a stark clarity. Yet the longest piece, "In A Landscape" seems to belong to the earlier times. A meandering meditation it is a gentle piece of some considerable beauty. The mood does darken as it concludes and it slowly seems to shift toward the music of the future than of its past.

Pianist Herbert Henck does a wonderful job in bringing the music off the page and into life here. His playing is crisp, when needed, and beaurifully nuanced throughout.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A design student/electronic music enthusiast trying to review John Cage 7 Mar. 2006
By eightpointagenda - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and try to review John Cage.

Here goes:

As one of my last Art/Design School projects, I decided that I was going to design a logo for John Cage. I had always had an interest in Cage but hardly an understanding, much less any background into his style of composition. I saw this project not only as way an excellent challenge as a designer, but also to force myself to learn more about John Cage. With a handful of text, information, I went out to find some musical works of Cage. I wasn't sure what to think, but Hebert Henck release was the one closest to my meeger price range. After listening to it while conducting my research, I can say that Henck captured the sound of Cage beautifully (or, at least in my mind based on my readings, that Cage would sound like).

Cage's compositions weren't just about music (i.e notes, signatures, etc.) but rather, how music occupies space. Cage's solo piano compositions often contain soft passages followed by sharp, held atonal accents which eventually seem to disapate into the air. It is through these techniques that Cage is capable of creating simple piano masterpieces like In A Landscape, or dramatic examples of musical frustration (Metamorphosis pieces were described by Shoenberg as Cage's musical knowledge "banging against a brick wall"). Despite its minor key sharpness and unsual melody, Cage's music is sublimely beautiful in my opinion. Its strangely evocative but yet subtle and not overbearing. And certainly is anything but boring. I would say these compositions (ranging between 1935 to 1948) certainly deserve, if not already to be classics.

While its hard for me to comment on the accuracy of Henck's preformance (though I heard he captures Cage's essence perfectly), I will say the engineering captures Henck's sound perfectly. The sound quality is crystal clear, and has a certain lonely piano room quality to it. If going simply by that, I would say that they certainly hit the mark in this catagory.

Cage is(was) a highly controversial figure in the classical music world. He would later begin testing the sounds of instruments, household objects, radios, and even silence itself. All of this can be hard to swallow for those unprepared or unknowning of what they could be getting themselves into. What makes Early Piano Music wonderful is its a great stepping stone in not only getting to know John Cage and his musical methods better (with a detailed description of his work in the liner notes), but a chance to expand your horizons with music in general. On this note, I highly recommend Early Piano Music.

So, how did I do?
8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Real music for the genuine internal martial artist 10 Nov. 2006
By Let's go deep! - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Give it a chance and it will awaken you reptilian brain. This is music only the chosen few will appreciate.
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