This is beautiful music, played with great sensitivity.
John 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 even beautiful his early compositions are. Cage’s early piano music is the subject of German pianist Herbert Henck’s new album.
Two years ago, ECM issued Henck’s account of Cage’s “Sonatas and 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. “Delightfully subtle, finely-nuanced, honed to precision, lucidly intelligent” – International Record Review; “Herbert Henck invests this music with every ounce of his meticulous musicianship and technical finish, remaining fully attuned to Cage’s poetic impulses” – BBC Music Magazine;
Now Henck goes back to the pieces that preceded and set the scene for the “Sonatas and Interludes”. These include “The Seasons”, previously heard on ECM in the orchestral version as played by the American Composers Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies and “In A Landscape”, one of the first Cage’s “oriental meditations” which has also been 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.
“Early Piano Music” flashes out a small but important body of Cage recordings on ECM. But it also does more than this.
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. And the album can be seen as the latest instalment in a series of remarkable recordings casting new light on some of the most independent musical voices of the twentieth century. It is a series that has already included Federico Mompou, Alexandr Mosolov, George Antheil Conlon Nancarrow and Jean Barraqué.
Each of these recordings is inspiring in the way it addresses new solutions to musical problems, opening up new possibilities for composition. In his typically illuminating liner notes for this Cage disc, Herbert Henck quotes the motto of this “enfant terrible” of American music: “Get yourself out of whatever cage you find yourself in.”
Herbert Henck, an exceptionally eloquent musical commentator, will be pleased to do interviews to help promote this disc. Consult Anselm Cybinski in the ECM office for more details.
The CD cover features a very fine portrait of Cage by Roberto Masotti, its alert friendliness an accurate indication of the music herein.
CD package includes 28 page German-English booklet with liner notes by Herbert Henck