John Cage - Volume 28: The Works for Piano 5

John Cage

(1912-1992)


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Mode Records - A Record Label Devoted to New Music The Complete John Cage Edition - Vol. 28: The Works for Piano 5

Soliloquy (1944)   (3:09)

Three Easy Pieces (1933)
   Round (for E.P.S.)   (2:44)
   Duo (for M.M.)   (1:24)
   Infinite Canon (for C.M.)   (1:50)

Four Walls (1944)
   Act I
   Scene 5. - 12.   (37:33)
   Act II
   Scene 13. - 17.   (25:04)


Haydée Schvartz, piano
Jack Bruce, voice


FOUR WALLS is a powerful and pivotal work in Cage's oeuvre. This large-scale piece was written as a "dance-drama" with text and dance by his long-time collaborator Merce Cunningham. It was performed only once in 1944 in a production with actors (which included a young Julie Harris) and other dancers, and was not heard again until it was revived some 30 years later.
  • Cage said that Four Walls deals with the "disturbed mind." This feeling is accentuated by the dramatic music, whose use of repetition, intense ostinatos, and silence evokes at times a harrowing closed-in sensibility. In addition, some long silences which are integral to the composition allow the listeners to turn their attention inwards.

  • It was written using only the white keys of the piano.

  • Four Walls shows Cage's seminal ideas on silence, repetition and gradual change, as well as influences of Eastern philosophy and music-its use of repetition foreshadows later minimalist music.

  • At Cunningham's request, Cage also devised a shorter "solo" piece extrapolated from Four Walls, which Cunningham performed several times in his early recitals. Entitled SOLILOQUY, it is also presented here.

  • The Three Easy Pieces are early, tonal Cage. The three movements-Round, Duo, and an "infinite" Canon-are written in an almost continuous 2-part contrapuntal style.

  • Liner notes are by Cage's long-time friend and publisher, Don Gillespie.

THE PERFORMERS
Haydée Schvartz is one of Argentina's leading pianists, performing repertoire from classical to contemporary music.
She is a student of the American virtuoso pianist Yvar Mikhashoff, whom she studied with in Buffalo, New York under a Fulbright scholarship. Schvartz has performed in the major concert halls of Argentina and several countries of North/South America and Europe.

She is joined here by Jack Bruce (voice); composer, singer, bassist and multi-instrumentalist of the legendary rock group Cream. His eclectic approach to music in his solo recordings and bands mixes rock, blues (performing with John Mayall) and jazz (with Tony Williams Lifetime, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham and Larry Coryell), with forays into the avant-garde (with ECM artists Michael Mantler and Carla Bley).


Reviews:

John Cage - The Works for Piano 5
Four Walls; Soliloquy; Three Easy Pieces
Haydée Schwartz (piano); Jack Bruce (voice)
Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 7
Mode 123

Four Walls was the first large-scale collaboration between composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Conceived as a "dance-play" in two acts, Cunningham's scenario and text depicted a dysfunctional American family and its progressive descent into madness. Using the white keys only, Cage provided a solo piano score following a rhythmic structure that incorporated specific mathematical durations, including time-lengths for both the script and the dancing. The work received its one and only performance on August 22, 1944, and was completely forgotten until pianist Richard Bunger rediscovered it in the late 1970s. At first Cage felt its expressive style unrepresentative of his work, but he ultimately allowed his publisher C. F. Peters to make it public after Margaret Leng Tan premiered it in New York.

Heard from an early 21st-century vantage point, Four Walls' slow-moving chordal sections and frequent silences evoke Arvo Pärt's "tintinnabular" minimalism, or perhaps some of Lamont Young's repeating keyboard patterns in The Well-Tuned Piano. Percussive, low-register writing often suggests the dry-boned asceticism of Erik Satie's Socrate, or what some of Cage's prepared piano pieces might sound like without nuts, bolts, and erasers implemented in and on the piano's strings.

Pianist Haydée Schwartz's performance strikingly differs from Richard Bunger's premiere recording and Margaret Leng Tan's traversal on New Albion. For the most part she favors slower tempos and thicker keyboard voicings, helped by a distant microphone placement that adds dynamic and textural heft. She relates to her aforementioned colleagues in Cage as, say, Otto Klemperer does to George Szell in Beethoven.

Sometimes detail gets lost. In Section Nine, to cite one example, the percussive left-hand clusters dominate to the point where you can barely hear the right-hand melody, whereas Bunger and John McAlpine (Largo) are crystal clear. Then again, where else on disc will you find former Cream bass player extraordinaire Jack Bruce intoning the central, unaccompanied song? He sings quite sweetly, if a little rough around the edges since the heyday of "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room".

Schwartz prefaces Four Walls with some delightful (and excellently played) early Cage fillers. Given all the psychobabble written on the subject of Cage, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Don Gillespie's straightforward, clear, informative, and well-written notes. This is worth hearing if you're a Cage fan, but New Albion's superior sonics plus Margaret Leng Tan's sensitive, polished playing remain my points of reference. And try to find McAlpine's splendid, out-of-print recording: it's also a keeper.
--- Jed Distler, www.classicstoday.com


John Cage: 4 Walls
Haydée Schvartz, piano
Jack Bruce, voice

Mode 123

THIS is the 28th volume of Mode's John Cage Edition, the fifth devoted to his piano music. It contains the hour of music he supplied in 1944 for Merce Cunningham's two-act ballet Four Walls. This is a remarkable score, written entirely in C, and prophetic not only of minimalism (Terry Riley's In C), but, with its large-scale use of silence, of later Cage. It is a music of pure geometry, a patchwork of white notes and white silence that is deliberately oppressive yet intriguing, with relief provided by a section consisting just of an erotic monody, here sung (beautifully) by Jack Bruce of Cream. Also included is Soliloquy (1944), Cage's three-minute digest of the score.
(Good)
--- Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 10 August 2003


John Cage
The Works for Piano 5
Featuring Haydée Schvartz on piano and Jack Bruce from Cream on vocals.

Mode 123

The compositions include "Four Walls" (1943-44), "Soliloquy" (1945) and "3 Easy Pieces" (1933). "Soliloquy", which opens, is an energetic and rarely performed piece. It is more dense and riveting than most of Cage's other piano pieces. "Three Easy Pieces" is a very early, before Cage claims to have found his compositional way. Extremely quiet and delicate, somewhat Bach-like in part. "Four Walls" is a powerful and pivotal work in Cage's oeuvre. This large-scale piece was written as a 'dance-drama' with text and dance by his long-time collaborator Merce Cunningham. Cage said that "Four Walls" deals with the 'disturbed mind.' This feeling is accentuated by the dramatic music, whose use of repetition, intense ostinatos, and silence evokes at times a harrowing closed-in sensibility. "Four Walls" shows Cage's seminal ideas on silence, repetition and gradual change, as well as influences of Eastern philosophy and music -- its use of repetition foreshadows later minimalist music. Jack Bruce's powerful voice seems a most apt choice for this material, although he is only utilized for a one section.
--- Downtown Music Gallery, June 2003 reviews


Related Resources:

John Cage on Mode:
John Cage Profile/Discography

Haydée Schvartz on Mode:
New Piano Works From Europe and The Americas (mode 31)

Gabriel VALVERDE: Resplandor de los Surem (1996-98) for piano solo.
    (mode 94)

Haydée Schvartz profile
Jack Bruce profile



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