Joshua Pierce’s longtime advocacy of and affinity for John Cage’s piano music has resulted in numerous recordings and reissues on various labels, including the present two-disc set. It first appeared on the short-lived “ants records” label; in fact, the first six selections also were released on an Albany CD, “John Cage…In Memoriam”. Pride of place are the Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano from a 1999 New York University concert. Here Pierce proves far more fluid, flexible, and involved than in his 1975 studio traversal issued by Tomato, Labor, and Wergo. Furthermore, the pianist benefits from a spacious hall ambience that allows the Gamelan-like timbres to fully resonate at any dynamic level, in contrast to the dry, overly closeRead more studio ambience.
Cage acolytes will notice Pierce’s subtle yet noticeable degree of tempo adjustment and nuance in the large-scale Four Walls, as well as a few unusually fast tempos (Act One Section Eight), along with Robert White’s delightfully emotive rendition of the unaccompanied vocal interlude. Pierce’s gutsy, incisive way with shorter dissonant works like Quest and both sets of Two Pieces point up their proximity to Cage’s teacher Schoenberg, and the short, pointillistic Piano Sextet (one of Cage’s few “traditional” chamber scores) reveals the composer’s sensitive and often underrated ear for conjuring fresh instrumental textures. MSR should be thanked for restoring this wide range of Cage’s music in such strong, committed performances in time for the composer’s 2012 centenary, while not forgetting to mention composer Eric Salzman’s informative and well-written booklet notes.