> John Cage - Three etc... [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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John CAGE (1912-1992)
Glenn Freeman, percussion, Christina Fong, violins and violas, Karen Krummel, cellos
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These are the first recordings of Cage’s last, ‘Number’ works for strings and percussion ensemble, elegantly if austerely presented by Ogreogress Productions. There are no notes but a quotation from Cage is printed on the disc and runs centre-out, in an attractive typeface, rather Laurence Whistler like. Three˛ evokes tinkles of sound, vivid wind squalls over a steady drone, coming to an abrupt stop at 5’00. The final section – it seems ponderous to speak of sectional writing in the Cagean context of these works but not unjust – launched from 8’07 brings a strong outburst, a fracturing mountain top blizzard and the piece ends on a note of open ended and unresolved ambiguity.

A strong pedal note, flecked with shadings, runs through Twenty-three, which dates from 1988 and not, as with the others on this disc from 1991, the year before Cage’s death. Multi-tracked with no dynamic level changes the work is held in a kind of active stasis. At 14’ melismatic patterns impinge themselves with the multi-tracked violins steadily rising in pitch and the synthetic aural perspective enriched by the occasional probing and meaning-vested single notes from the cello line. There is a kind of weight laden luftpause at 21’ – before a passage of increasing nasality – middle voicings, more viola oriented – brings with it a sense of veiled serenity and a final note of resolution. Six, lasting, obviously, three minutes is the Scherzo joker in the pack of the four pieces – a solo percussion jeux of virtuoso wit. Much high lying string writing permeates Twenty-Six. A sense of perceptible movement at 9’00 subtly opens the music to increasingly exploratory sonorities and a sense of slow unraveling, a kind of waking from slumber. Unlike Three˛ which evokes veiled oppositional, or at least contrastive, material and unlike Twenty-Three, which moves in almost imperceptible steps to tangible conclusiveness, Twenty-Six is more inside out and interior; less impressive, to my ears, but perhaps more obviously attractive.

Dramatically convincing performances from Fong, Freeman and Krummel and high production values.

Jonathan Woolf


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Three2 (1991)

Twenty-Three (1988)

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Twenty-Six (1991)

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