i bought this Brilliant Classics triple cd recently as a addition to my cd s of Cage's sonatas +preludes for prepared piano (by Boris Berman on naxos) . to cut to the chase the first cd of Cage solo piano works is the bes tof the 3 discs by some margin. Simonacci is very well recorded + the playing has plenty of elegance + insight. the suite for toy piano played here on normal grand is a missed opportunity for me - surely we need to hear the work in its original context ? i think the sly humour is lost using a grand surely ? however the solo piano works oncd 1 show Cage's progression from neo-classical to jazz to post-schoenberg to final true own voice in his post 1946 works. "dream","landscape","seven haiku" + "waiting" are the highlights for me. beautiful, enigmatic, refelctive,largely still pieces.
cd 2 showcases Satie's work "(Cage was a big fan of Satie's impish humour apparently) which is suitably mercurial and is still growing on me. pleasant- hardly essential on first few listens. Cage's "cheap imitation" is the second work on cd 2 + is rather inconsequential here- played rather flatly by the Simonacci in a duo, + thus becomes a little dull. aybe that was Cage's intention ? cd 3 - has 3 different versions of the same work "etude boreales" played for solo piano, piano+cello + solo cello(the least appealing version - sounding stodgy in comparison) an interesting comparative idea but the same piece heard in succession loses its impact for me.
overall - a good but a slightly uneven collection of Cage piano based works (with Satie also) that is very well recorded but hardly indispensible. four stars, and very good value if nothing else.
I have some previous recordings by Giancarlo Simonacci - the Complete Music for Prepared Piano which is very good, but whilst I enjoyed these recordings, I wasn't anything like as taken with them as I am by this current selection. Without the preparations you can really hear how sure-footed and clear Simonacci's technique is and, perhaps surprisingly, how much difference this makes to listening to Cage.
Cage, in his book Silence said 'The critic criticises himself.' He also recalled an anecdote regarding some musical entertainment that he'd laid on for a guest (Daisetz Suzuki?, I can't remember.) On one occasion the singing was good and his guest wore a beatific smile - on another occasion the singing was not so good and Cage was worried, but when he looked across at his guest, he saw the same beatific smile. Cage thought that if we can accept sounds as they are, rather than allowing our psychology to dictate premises for evaluation of quality (or genius of composition) then all the sound-world would be that much more interesting. I agree up to a point - Whilst I'm always up for re-assessing my critical faculties, I'm not willing to disregard them.
With all that said, listening to Cage is always quite different to listening to Bach, for example, but with these recordings, much of what I admire and gain from listening to a great Bach recital is also present here. Furthermore, the recording quality is very nice. I'm playing these recordings quite a lot - they are everything I've ever wanted from such music and I hope that more will follow. If you're new to Cage, I think that this would be a very good place to start.
The inclusion of Cage's 2 piano transcription of Satie's 'Socrate' and the piano and cello work 'Etudes Borealis' help to make this set a diverse wholly pleasurable listen.