Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cage's Sixteen Dances (1951), for Merce Cunningham's choreography, are a missing link in his still-growing representation on CD. The Ensemble Modern, whose Ives and Nancarrow performances I have so much admired, bring them to the British catalogue for the first time. There was an American LP (never issued in the UK) with a chamber group including the Nexus Percussion Ensemble under Paul Zukovsky, which was well worth having at the time but the recorded quality on RCA is much better, even though the periodic loud attacks on the bass drum (track 3, for example) often seem to distort.
In 1951 Cage was at a turning point following major achievements such as the Sonatas and Interlucks for prepared piano (Tall Poppies, 10/94), the
Cunningham ballet The Seasons (not yet on CD), the String Quartet (Mode Records, 12/93) and the Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra (on CD only in the USA—Wergo).
Whereas Cage had carefully chosen the sounds in Sonatas and Interludes, in the Sixteen Dances he began to accept moves on his charts as a basis for 78 Gramophone April 1995 composing decisions. You can't really tell this in the Sixteen Dances, which have the authentic atmosphere of Cage of this period and are linked to the Sonatas and Interludes since eight of them represent specific Hindu emotions such as anger, humour and sorrow.
At times the moods of the String Quartet recur, but with much more activity and colour thanks to a palette of flute, violin, cello, trumpet, piano and percussion. Cage's philosophy was by now Zeninfluenced and even the sound is oriental at times—the interlude at track 12 is enchanting and the one at track 14 particularly witty. The final dance, representing tranquillity, accumulates real depth and grandeur with its tolling tam-tam. There is a ceremonial sense of progression in the work as a whole which is almost nostalgic at this point, since Cage was about to give all that up. Part of a 1988 watercolour by Cage is reproduced in the booklet and the notes are by James Pritchett, whose book on Cage was published in 1993.
-- Gramophone [4/1995]
Works on This Recording
Sixteen Dances by John Cage
Peppie Wiersma (Percussion),
Björn Wilker (Percussion),
Rainer Römer (Percussion),
Dietmar Wiesner (Flute),
Rumi Ogawa-Helferich (Percussion),
Hermann Kretzschmar (Piano),
William Forman (Trumpet),
Peter Rundel (Violin),
Paul Marleyn (Cello)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1951; USA
Date of Recording: 12/1992
Venue: Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt, Germany
Length: 49 Minutes 29 Secs.
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