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John CAGE (1912 – 1992)
Cheap Imitation (1969)
Souvenir (1984)
Dream (1948)
Teodoro Anzellotti (accordion)
Recorded: WDR, Funkhaus Köln, December 2000 (Cheap Imitation) and September 1992 (Dream); Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, Baden-Baden, December 1993 (Souvenir)
WINTER & WINTER 910 080-2 [62:57]


Cage repeatedly expressed his admiration for Satie. One can of course think of many reasons for this liking. One of them may have been that he responded to Satie’s black humour and iconoclastic, extravagant attitudes. These often impressed at the expense of music that is frequently very fine, subtle and harmonically refined in spite of the often humorous titles of the pieces. Although I enjoy a good deal of Satie’s output, I have never been able to respond to his symphonic drama Socrate which I find a dull and dreary piece. Cage obviously had another view of the piece that may have appealed to him because of its Minimalism avant la lettre. Cheap Imitation was composed in 1969 as a choreographic score for Merce Cunningham. Originally Cage planned to transcribe Socrate for two pianos. However, the French publishers refused to grant authorisation to do so. Cage thus decided to write his own piece while preserving the rhythmical patterns of Satie’s piece, since Cunningham’s choreography had already been completely devised on Satie’s piece. Cheap Imitation exists in several versions: one for violin, one for piano and three other ones for orchestral forces of varying size. I did not find any mention of the present version for accordion in the catalogue of Cage’s publisher, so that I suppose that it has been made by Teodoro Anzellotti. Cage’s music here is entirely monodic, with – to me at least – a hint of plainsong, and moves at a fairly moderate pace as does Satie’s original work.

In 1983, the American Guild of Organists asked Cage to write an imitation of his early piece Dream composed in 1948. Cage turned down the request and eventually composed Souvenir in which the performer is given considerable freedom in handling the notated material. The piece, as played here, sounds rather minimalist and made me think of Pärt at times. On the whole, it also moves at a quite moderate pace, with very few brief outbursts.

The much earlier Dream was composed for piano in 1948, also originally intended for a choreography by Cunningham. The notated material bearing some semblance to the Dies Irae again allows for a good deal of freedom on the player’s part. This and Souvenir are heard here in transcriptions for accordion (also by Anzellotti?), and I must say that the present versions sound very well indeed.

This is obviously a disc that will not be to everyone’s liking, depending on one’s reaction to Cage’s musical world. Anzellotti’s immaculate readings, free from any vulgarity, are simply breathtaking. Cage’s fans will need no further recommendation and will be delighted to hear these unusual, but quite successful transcriptions.

Hubert Culot


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