|The Complete John Cage Edition, Volume 2
Atlas Eclipticalis with Winter Music
CD 1 & 2
JOHN CAGE CONDUCTS JOHN CAGE:
Atlas Eclipticalis (1961)
for chamber ensemble
with Winter Music (1957)
for 3 pianos
Live performances, 11 December 1983
Cornish Theater at the Cornish Institute, Seattle, Washington
CD 1: Performance I, 6:30 pm (80:00)
CD 2: Performance II, 8:30 pm (79:59)
The New Performance Group
John Cage, conductor
FIRST TIME ON CD
Note: tape hiss and some distortion are present due to the limitations of the analogue source material
COMPOSER SUPERVISED PERFORMANCES
RELEASED FOR THE FIRST TIME:
Atlas Eclipticalis (1961) (29:44)
Live performance, 26 February 1988
Crowell Hall at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut
The Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra with The Hartt Contemporary Players and The Arditti Quartet
Melvin Strauss, conductor
Winter Music (1957) (10:17)
for 20 pianos
The Callithumpian Consort: Alanna Battat, Johanna Kovitz, Guy Livingston
Mina Yang, pianos
Stephen Drury, director
The long awaited reissue of Mode's second LP set, remastered with bonus tracks.
Cage's relationship with the Cornish Institute in Seattle dates back to the 1930s, when he taught there and performed as accompanist for many dance pieces. Cornish was also the scene of several of his musical discoveries and innovations.
– Dan Warburton, www.paristransatlantic.com, April 2007
CAGE: Atlas Eclipticalis with Winter Music
The New Performance Group / John Cage; Hartt Contemporary Players, Arditti Quartet, The Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra / Melvin Strauss; The Callithumpian Consort (Alanna Battat, Johanna Kovitz, Guy Livingston, Mina Yang pf) / Stephen Drury MODE3/6 (3h 20' • ADD/DDD)
Recorded live at the Cornish Theater, Seattle, on December 11, 1983; Crowell Hall, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, on February 26, 1988. From Mode originals.
The scandals are history: now we can appreciate Cage reaching for the stars
Originally Mode's second release, issued on four LPs in 1986, the 1983 performances of Atlas eclipticalis and Winter Music played simultaneously have always felt like a seminal point of reference forJohn Cage fans. Atlas eclipticalis (1961) uses chance procedures "but in relation to the traced position of the stars," Cage writes, the resulting orchestral polyphony being equivalent to a constellation of stars. Winter Music (1957) was designed for multiple pianos and notates a spectrum between single stabbing notes and tone clusters. Cage instructs players that chords, even when too notey for 10 fingers, must be played whole and that tones beyond reach are to be sounded via harmonics. The resonant mix of struck notes ricocheting against sustained harmonics is a beautiful thing, and hearing the two works piggybacking demonstrates how unerringly accurate randomness can be.
Historically, performances of Atlas eclipticalis have been prone to insurrection and mutiny. Leonard Bernstein's performances in 1963 created one of the biggest scandals in the New York Philharmonic's history. Some 40 years on, however, the beauty of this music seems unmistakable. Cage indicates that its character is best realised when care is taken to produce acute contrasts of loud and soft/short and long, but there's magic beyond this state of black and white. Going to such extremes also guarantees a robust middle ground of supplementary colliding textures and coincidences of note pattern.
There were two performances on one day: the first prodigiously fluid, with winning inevitability about the music's direction from its first note; the second with many more awkward corners and moments where the musicians work hard to define purpose and momentum. But both are an honest response to how Cage's demands are set up. The fact the ensemble embraces musicians with dual interest in improvisation and composition helps, giving the ensemble a potent "lived-in" feel.
Adding stimulating context to the original release are separate performances of Atlas Eclipticalis and Winter Music, and the sonorous subterranean echoes of Winter Music are brilliantly captured by Stephen Drury's ensemble. Christmas just came early.
– Philip Clark, Gramophone, September 2007
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