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Cage: Freeman Etudes, Books 3 & 4 / Marco Fusi

Cage / Fusi
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Stradivarius   Catalog #: 33920   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Cage
Performer:  Marco Fusi
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CAGE Freeman Etudes: Books 3, 4 Marco Fusi (vn) STRADIVARIUS 33920 (49:34)


In Fanfare 35:6, reviewing John Cage’s Etudes Australes , I wrote about the all-but-insurmountable technical challenges the composer devised—intentionally, using star charts and I Ching- derived details—for a pianist. Books 1 and 2 of the Read more Freeman Etudes (named for patroness-of-the-arts Betty Freeman) were written between 1977 and ’80 for violinist Paul Zukofsky, and by all accounts seem to have taken the concept of unplayability on his instrument to even more extreme levels. In fact, their complexity so perplexed Cage himself that he abandoned plans for Books 3 and 4 until 1989, when he heard Irvine Arditti perform the first two books. Even so, he ultimately attached a note in the completed score to the effect that when faced with an impossibility, the violinist should simply do the best he can. (For a further explanation of the difficulties involved in both the composition and performance, see Mike Silverton’s review of Arditti’s recording of all four books in Fanfare 18: 3.)


All well and good. But how do they sound ? To my ears (and I’ve been listening to Cage’s music for more than 40 years) these disconnected pitches, plotting extreme intervals in extreme registers, with an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of attacks and tonal effects, outline a jagged, disjunct, drastically unfamiliar kind of melody; in a sense, each etude is a chain of sounds with no recognizable logic, pattern, or continuity. Unlike the Etudes Australes , which I can relate to other radical examples of the 20th-century piano repertoire, the Freeman Etudes fall outside of my expectations for and experiences with music for the violin, and instead share some of the initially disconcerting, disorienting effects of electronic music. I suspect the composer would have been pleased with this prospect, as one of his mantras was that music that was truly new would require new ways of listening. For his part, Marco Fusi plays like a wizard. Not being a violinist and without a score, I can’t tell how close he comes to Cage’s unattainable perfection, but he sounds convincing. Thus his challenge is in turn passed along to the listener. Feel adventurous?


FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

1. Freeman Etudes: Book 4 by John Cage
Performer:  Marco Fusi (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977-1980; USA 
2. Freeman Etudes: Book 3 by John Cage
Performer:  Marco Fusi (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989-1990; USA 

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