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John Cage - Winter Music [Another Timbre - 2017]

Composed in 1957 Winter Music is piano composition from reviled & respected modern classical & Avant grade composer John Cage. Here we have a 2017 release of a 2014 recording of the work, and I must say I was both pleasantly surprised & taken by this wonderfully jarring & angular work.

Itís fair to say Iím not the biggest fan of much of Mr. Cageís output- sure I understand itís importance, itís influence, and his innovation- but more often than not it seems his compositions seem to lack any kind of atmosphere, depth or reason. Much of what Iíve heard seems to be experimenting for the sake of it, and not coming out the other end with a focus, point or much structure. I guess you could argue thatís the point of much of his work is to push the limits, experiment & break conventions- and Iím for all of that- it just has to have some sort of impact on me- be it create a mood, unbalance me, amuse, or challenge meÖand more often than not I just come away from his work bored & frustrated. So that brings us to the work at hand, and I must say itís one of the most enjoyable & attention grabbing works Iíve heard from Cage.

As mentioned early this work was composed in 1957 by Cage for 1 to 20 pianists- the score for the piece consists of 20 unbound pages and can be performed in any order. The whole idea/ point of the piece is to investigate chance in composition. For the recording on this CD- we have four highly respected modern pianist- Mark Knoop, Catherine Laws, Phillip Thomas, and John Tilbury. Each of the pianists was given 5 pages, each agreed on a length of 40 minutes and then prepared their parts independently. Then there where no rehearsal and the piece was played just once- with the whole thing been captured with wonderful balance & layer depth by Simon Reynell.

The above description may suggest that the work could be random, shape-less & deliberately difficult. But instead, itís invigoratingly urgent & often jarringly angular sonic experience- with very fleeting moments of melancholic beauty. The recording of this work is clearly key to it working so well- as each piano is captured at the same clarity & depth. The piece is a taut sonic tapestry that shifts from sudden darts & slams rapidly cut cascading tinkles, sly semi harmonic wonders, to brief barren flits. Through-out ones attention is perfectly held, awaiting the next pattern or shift in the occur- sure there is little in the way of firmly discernable repeating patterns, or structure here- like say a Feldman composition, but thereís a real feeling of danger, flair & urgency here, which keeps pulling me back to work again & again

If like me youíve been unimpressed with Cages work youíve heard in the past, but do enjoy modern composition for the piano. Then Iíd really say give this release a go- as I think you may to be pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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