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Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

3.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Performer: Boris Berman
  • Composer: John Cage
  • Audio CD (July 20, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • ASIN: B00000JMYM
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,690 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Cage's "Sonatas & Interludes" go back to when he was actually composing music instead of rolling dice. They're written for a piano which has its strings' vibrations modified by various pieces of hardware to make it into a compact percussion orchestra. Some pieces hark back to Webern, some look ahead to Glass, others sound like gamelan or a Cuban percussion section. In this recording Berman brings out the best in the music, nicely adjusting to its moods and eccentricities. At its bargain price this recording is a must for all interested in the milestones of American music.
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john cage, one of the most provocative of the 20th century minimalist composers, gives us a rare glimpse of accessibility. known for incredibly experimental scores and works, including '4:33', a four and a half minute long moment of silence, some of which are harder to appreciate than others, he was also a master pianist, not afraid to tinker with the inner works, exploring just what sort of music 88 keys and a box full of strings might make with a few things added, like nuts and bolts, spoons and forks, just about anything to broaden the aural spectrum of the instrument. the results, as evidenced here, are extraordinary. without clogging up space with cascades of notes, mr. cage paints a canvas at once haunting and captivating. he asserted that this music was as much a spiritual exercise as an artistic one, exploring the tenets of asian religion in sound, and one must confess that this music indeed fosters contemplation. further, modern twelve-tone music is often stereotyped as beep-and-squonk noise, but here is an example of just how beautiful it can be, as well as exemplifying the inherent structure of modernist classical music. this is a great place for someone new to the music to explore. just a note on the performance itself: mr. berman is excellent, capturing not only mr. cage's structural composition, but also the feel. and with naxos' wonderfully low price, this recording recommends itself. enjoy!
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I only want to add to the other glowing reviews that if you are someone who wants to expand your taste in music beyond the merely melodic but don't know where to start, this could be a very good place. I'm someone, for example, who has always considered Prokofiev about as far out as my taste could extend. I bought this disc because a friend recommended it (and because it's cheap!) and I love it! In fact, the second volume--Music For Prepared Piano, Vol. 2--just came out here in Europe, and I bought it immediately. I wasn't sorry. It's just as brilliant as the first.
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Edward Wright (see above review) knows more about this stuff than I do. I'm impressed that he has heard not one, not two, not three, but *four* different versions of Cage's Sonatas and Interludes! I thought I was doing great to hear just this one.

I have for a long time been interested in Cage as a sort of iconoclast and philosopher of sorts, so I picked this up at the good old Naxos bargain price, brought it home, listened to the first few pieces, and said, "What is this crap?"

But being no complete musical moron, I figured the idea of the music would grow on me, and grow on me it did. Lately, I want to hear this CD--not my Schubert or Beethoven--all the time. What initially sounded random and chaotic now seems magical. This music is by and large more rhythm and texture based than harmony based. It's tough music. I wonder what Ives would have thought of it (he never heard it, as far as I know).

When I hear Cage, I'm proud to be an American. The same goes for when I hear Ives.

I like this whole CD, but my favorite piece is, now at least, probably the Second Interlude, especially the last minute or so of it. It has a droning, clocklike, dreamy quality to it, but there might also be a little menace there as well, like the soundtrack to a slightly threatening dream. Much of this is, in fact, rather dreamlike.

This CD is positively not conventional Western music. The prepared piano highlights the percussive quality of the instrument (see Sonata 5), and the music seldom repeats itself thematically. It is brimming with ideas, but these are not ideas that everyone will find all that interesting.
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Format: Audio CD
turn the volume all the way up on this one, as naxos engineers have caught every little nuance of the prepared piano. this collection of brief compositions sparkles with warmth and intensity. my favorite is track 18, in which the piano sounds like a gamelan.
if you're new to cage, this CD will grow on you. give it some time.
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Boris Berman, the supernal virtuoso who has made the nearly impossibly difficult Scriabin sonatas come alive for me, has approached this contemporary American classic with the exact right blend of technical skill and heartfelt feeling. The preparation of the piano is exactly right...nearly completely identical to the preparation of the piano on the Retrospective Concert lp's, which I feel should be taken as the guide to the best interpretation of this masterwork. Of course, with Cage's later work the variability was more desired, but in his pre-indeterminate works I feel Cage should be approached with a more traditional interpretative concept. Berman has put together the best elements for one of the best versions yet. And as an added bonus the budget price (as with all Naxos recordings) tips the scale and makes this the one to get!
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