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Joanna Macgregor Plays Cage & Nancarrow

Cage / Nancarrow / Macgregor
Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 678566   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John CageRobin HartwellMatthew FaircloughDjango Bates,   ... 
Performer:  Joanna MacGregorLulu BatesKeith TurnbullTalvin Singh
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MacGregor has never been one to compromise. Her willingness to challenge through repertoire adventure is a byword. This disc corroborates that role.

The nineteen Sonatas and Interludes patter, rattle, click, resonate, mesmerise, clang and ring with all the elan, delicacy and plangent finery of the gamelan. These sounds emerge among the seductive whispers of temple and jungle. I say nineteen Sonatas and Interludes. In fact one track incorporates both sonatas 14 and 15 sharing the title Gemini. The wonder is that
Read more these results, which are intensely beautiful, are achieved by 'preparing' a concert grand with bits of bamboo, rubber, plastic, screws, nuts and bolts. The sheer labour that Cage must have put in to experimenting to achieve these sounds and then having meticulously to document the additions into the score is phenomenal. Cage's The Perilous Night is another example of West Coast USA openness. The note leads us to expect something darker than the Sonatas and Interludes but the mood difference is infinitesimal.

The second disc harbours music by Cage, Nancarrow and a tribute selection. The Cage piece - Bacchanale - is different from the pieces on CD 1. It throbs with a pounding electric charge coupling to faint Stravinskian overtones. It picks up on a generalised Japanese accent.

Robin Hartwell's Piano Piece No. 2 after John Cage is rather more violent and metallic than Cage though still fractured. Matthew Fairclough's Inside Out is slower and more contrived: electronic and apocalyptic. Django Bates' You Live and Learn superimposes a young girl talking with all sort of other sounds. The prepared piano makes more conventional piano noises than we are accustomed to from Cage. It's quite catchy and even charming in a disorientating sort of way. Stephen Pratt's Three Studies are just as non-linear as the other pieces but sound more Cage-like yet in a more muscular ‘plink-plunk’ way – sorry! Mike Wilson/Zoetrope's Vegan Gravy Mix whimpers and wheezes, bubbles and burbles. The piano playing uses jazzy figurations in small shards. It reminded me of a 1970s Blaxploitation film score. Peter O'Brien's Rasavan adds to the mix with warbling synthesiser and processed voice tracks. Deirdre Gribbin's The Broken Piece of the Moon also makes play with a voice-track which sounds like a call to prayer and lines it up with gamelan patterning and what sounds to me like the dropping of galvanised hollow-ware into a brick coal-house. Unaccountable. Mary Black's Dead sheep is just odd and very short. Jonathan Harvey's name I know. His Homage to Cage, a Chopin (und Ligeti ist auch dabei) is a bustling blizzard of metallic shimmers and rhetorical piano writing. It ends abruptly with a gesture Rachmaninov would have recognised. Andrew Toovey is another well kent name. You may not (want) to (be) hear/here has a man's voice reading a meaning-challenged set of words over drum impacts and a quiet gamelan patter. Endgame is a collegiate effort by Talvin Singh and Joanna MacGregor. The traditional instrumental world of the Indian subcontinent resonates with bells, piano strums and quiet gong sounds.

Conlon Nancarrow was born in Arkansas and made his home in Mexico. His reputation rests on the multiplicity of pieces he wrote for player-piano. The three items here are for unadulterated piano. They are under the sauntering and lolling spell of the blues or in the case of the Prelude indebted to a wayward martellato ragtime. The Three Canons for Ursula make play with a scatter of little unarticulated note impacts, emergent musings and rapid-fire Handelian scraps. The Ursula referred to is the pianist Ursula Oppens. The last three tracks comprise Studies 3c, 6 and 11. These swing and sway along, obsessive in their repetition of note-cells and national stereotypes and conventions - Spanish in the case of No. 6. The final study dots and pegs along but at last finds a sort of bitterly horror-struck acceleration.

Do not be put off by the Cage name and the avant-garde reputation. It does not matter - just relax and accept the music for what it is.

The candid and informative liner-notes are by Joanna MacGregor.

This is part of the revealing and interest-barbed Sound Circus series from Warner - MacGregor. These releases include her 2CD Gershwin (2564 67830-6), her Goldberg (2564 68393-3), MacGregor Live in Buenos Aires (2564 68475-9) and her four CD Messiaen collection including Harawi, Quatuor Pour la fin du Temps and Vingt Regards (2564 68393-2).

There are alternative versions of the Sonatas and Interludes including Henck (Wergo) and Tilbury (Explorer - the home of analogue tapes from the Decca Headline LP label) but none of them have this particular mix and the bargain price surely encourages experimentation.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano by John Cage
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946-1948; USA 
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 51 Minutes 14 Secs. 
2.
The Perilous Night for Prepared Piano by John Cage
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 12 Minutes 7 Secs. 
3.
Bacchanale by John Cage
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 6 Minutes 55 Secs. 
4.
Piano Piece No. 2 (after John Cage), for piano by Robin Hartwell
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Length: 1 Minutes 9 Secs. 
5.
Inside Out, for prepared piano by Matthew Fairclough
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 2 Minutes 5 Secs. 
6.
You Live & Learn, for piano by Django Bates
Performer:  Lulu Bates (Voice), Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 4 Minutes 29 Secs. 
7.
Studies (3) on Cage, for prepared piano by Stephen Pratt
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 3 Minutes 28 Secs. 
8.
ALF - the vegan gravy mix by Mike Wilson
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
9.
Rasavan, for prepared piano by Peter O'Brien
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 1 Minutes 15 Secs. 
10.
The Broken Piece of the Moon, for prepared piano by Deirdre Gribbin
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 5 Minutes 15 Secs. 
11.
Dead Sheep, for prepared piano by Mary Black
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 0 Minutes 29 Secs. 
12.
Homage to Cage, à Chopin (und Ligeti ist auch dabei), for prepared piano by Jonathan Harvey
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998 
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 1 Minutes 44 Secs. 
13.
You may not (want) to (be) hear/here, for prepared piano & voice by Andrew Toovey
Performer:  Keith Turnbull (Voice), Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 4 Minutes 40 Secs. 
14.
Endgame by Talvin Singh / Joanna Mac
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Prepared Piano), Talvin Singh (Tabla)
Venue:  Snake Ranch 
Length: 10 Minutes 2 Secs. 
15.
Canons (3) for Ursula by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; Mexico 
Venue:  St. Georges, Brandon Hill, Bristol 
Length: 15 Minutes 7 Secs. 
16.
Blues for Piano by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Boston, Massachusett 
Venue:  St. Mary's Church, Hatfield Broad Oak 
Length: 1 Minutes 26 Secs. 
17.
Study for Player Piano no 3c by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; Mexico 
Venue:  St. Georges, Brandon Hill, Bristol 
Length: 2 Minutes 44 Secs. 
18.
Study for Player Piano no 6 by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1960; Mexico 
Venue:  St. Georges, Brandon Hill, Bristol 
Length: 3 Minutes 43 Secs. 
19.
Study for Player Piano no 11 by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Joanna MacGregor (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1960; Mexico 
Venue:  St. Georges, Brandon Hill, Bristol 
Length: 3 Minutes 34 Secs. 

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