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Cage: Sonatas & Interludes / Cédric Pescia

Release Date: 06/12/2012 
Label:  Aeon   Catalog #: 1227   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Cage
Performer:  Cédric Pescia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAGE Sonatas and Interludes Cédric Pescia (prepared pn) AEON 1227 (64:00)

It’s amazing that in the centenary of John Cage’s birth it still needs to be said that, contrary to much public opinion, his scores are neither a license for improvisation nor an excuse for haphazard execution. Over the course of his long career Cage adopted and invented a variety of compositional/performance strategies—from fully detailed notation to descriptions of indeterminate actions, with varying degrees of controlled Read more and free responsibilities in between—but what they all have in common is the care necessary to successfully fulfill the composer’s requirements, whatever they may be. The Sonatas and Interludes , written between 1946 and ’48, are fully notated, and considered not exceptionally difficult to play. There are, of course, as with any notated score, variable, subtle, relative points of interpretation based upon touch, phrasing, speed, dynamics, and so on, but the primary circumstance that inevitably affects the sound and effect of every performance is the preparation of the piano. Here too, Cage designed precise instructions specifying the size and style of bolts, screws, pieces of rubber, and other items to be used as well as their exact placement inside the piano. Even so, aware of the differences from piano to piano and the inconsistencies of available materials, Cage knew that no two performances could sound exactly the same, and so he allowed a certain amount of alterations according to the performer’s preferences. (It’s worth noting that only one recording, that of Philipp Vandré on Mode, has attempted to re-create Cage’s original preparation, on the same model of piano, as accurately as possible.)

In the accompanying program booklet, John Fallas remarks that Cédric Pescia was “reasonably free” regarding Cage’s instructions, and the result is that he has toned down some of the music’s inherent percussiveness and mechanistic edge. To be sure, the characteristic wooden and metallic timbres remain, and when Pescia chooses to attack the notes, as in Sonata 10, bass notes thud deeply and the upper register chimes glitteringly. But Pescia’s choices also allow him to caress phrases, as in Sonatas 6, 7, and 8, offering a delicate lacework of soft tones punctuated by muted woodblock-like pings. In general, Pescia’s preparations are less reminiscent of a gamelan than most of the competition, and he emphasizes an Impressionistic tinge that occasionally calls to mind Debussy and, in the twin “Gemini” sonatas, even Bernard Herrmann (I’m thinking of his score for the film Journey to the Center of the Earth ). His one miscalculation may be the sparse, drawn-out extension of the concluding sonata, but for the most part Pescia offers a seductive new perspective on an old friend.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano by John Cage
Performer:  Cédric Pescia (Prepared Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946-1948; USA 

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