Notes and Editorial Reviews
Just about every recording of John Cage's landmark Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano is excellent, and most are well engineered. That, plus the fact that no two prepared pianos sound exactly alike, makes choosing one single version over another difficult. However, the two that appeal to me most involve pianists who also are composers. These artists may not nail Cage's tempo specifications and minutely-detailed dynamics to the proverbial cross, yet their phrasing best captures the music's roots in dance and subtle humor. They also know what flourishes to toss off like fairy dust in the background, and what melodies need to be projected with the most varied articulations.
Both recordings date from the mid-1970s. One is Yuji Takahashi's for Denon, a splendid-sounding early digital production that may be hard to find. The other is John Tilbury's analogue Decca recording, reissued here. Its warm, intimate, and closely detailed sonics do full justice to the prepared piano's rich overtones and gamelan-like timbres, sounding as if the performances were taped yesterday rather than 30-plus years ago. I especially like how Tilbury (or perhaps his tape editor) usually proceeds from one movement to another with little pause, elucidating the music's implicit drama and large-scale arc. Not surprisingly perhaps, Tilbury's booklet notes confirm that his approach to Cage's minutely specified preparations is faithful but pragmatic, governed by what sounds best for what the music expresses. Amen to that, and a big thank you to the Explore label for giving Tilbury's Cage a new lease on life.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording
Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano by John Cage
John Tilbury (Prepared Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1946-1948; USA
Date of Recording: 12/1974
Venue: All Saints Church, Petersham, Surrey, En
Length: 59 Minutes 14 Secs.
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