MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



cover image

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

John CAGE (1912–1992)
Melodies and Harmonies
Six Melodies (1950) [12:40] and Thirteen Harmonies (1985) [43:22]
Annie Gahl (violin); Klaus Lang (keyboard – Fender Rhodes)
rec. Amann Studios, Vienna 29-30 September 2009
COL LEGNO WWE 1CD 20292 [55:55]

Experience Classicsonline

I have to admit my heart sank a little when I saw that an electronic keyboard had been used in this recording. I have nothing against the venerable Fender Rhodes stage piano, and yes, John Cage did nominate Six Melodies as being for violin and piano or keyboard, but the fascinating variety of tone and timbre from a good piano is always going to be more interesting in this kind of music than an electronic instrument, no matter how well it is played. The Fender Rhodes is fine as a jazz instrument or for nostalgic and sentimental moments in 1970s film scores, but I know of not a single pianist in any genre who would choose it over a decent grand piano if given the choice. Klaus Lang and the author of the booklet notes Markus Hennerfeind make no mention of any artistic decisions made in this regard. The Fender Rhodes sounds a bit like a big music box when quiet, and gently drills holes in your skull when played loud. I don’t feel it really makes for stimulating listening in these pieces.

I have another problem with this CD. The elegant self-sufficiency of Six Melodies is spaced through the other cycle on the programme, Thirteen Harmonies. Yes, you can programme your player to stir up the tracks into any order on CDs, and with Cage this can often be a fun variation to the given order of a piece or set of movements. Yes, both these works have a sense of homespun simplicity in the violin writing, and restricted use of intervals, sonorities and range in the keyboard. I do not however feel that shoving the sophisticated and integrated structure of Six Melodies against the more literally folksy Thirteen Harmonies does much for either. It strikes me as being like putting Brahms’ Op.9 and Op.23 Schumann Variations in a bag and shaking them up like Scrabble letters ‘because they’re a bit similar.’

John Cage once referred to Six Melodies as a kind of postscript to his String Quartet in four parts, even with the use of a similar range of sounds. With a well defined rhythmic structure of 3, 3, 4, 4, 3, 4, this simple sounding music possesses its own integrity and atmosphere.
The cycle Thirteen Harmonies has its origin in a larger piece called Apartment House 1776 from 1976, written for the two-hundredth anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence. A selection of 13 from a total of 44 Harmonies from this was made by violinist Roger Zahab, who arranged a version of the music for violin and keyboard. This arrangement was approved by Cage. While this probably won’t mean much in isolation, the selected Harmonies are: Nr.18 - Old North (William Billings), Nr.42 - Rapture (Collection Belcher), Nr.26 - Judea (William Billings), Nr.21 - Heath (William Billings), Nr.19 - New York (Andrew Law), Nr.5 - The Lord Descended (William Billings), Nr.11 – Wheeler’s Point (William Billings), Nr.14 - Brunswick (James Lyon), Nr.15 - Bellingham (William Billings), Nr.28 - Greenwich (Andrew Law), Nr.35 - Framingham (William Billings), Nr.38 - The Lord is Ris’n (William Billings), Nr.44 - Bloomfield (Andrew Law). The names given in brackets refer to the creators of the original hymns or songs which Cage used to make the pieces, all being part of the kind of Protestant Church music which had become established in isolation from European developments in the 18th century.

This is a well recorded disc, and strikingly presented in bright blue and orange, with an orange disc which kicks out from its blue background like Barnett Newman. The booklet includes an imaginative text by Heinz Janisch which you will find either illuminating and revelatory or annoying and kitsch. Both musicians play very well, and for those who can cope with or indeed relish the prospect of nearly 56 minutes of the Fender Rhodes sound then there will be rewards to be had here. The MDG recording of Six Melodies by Andreas Seidel, violin and Steffen Schleiermacher, piano (see review) is a desirable alternative. Thirteen Harmonies is harder to get hold of, though I see that Roger Zahab’s own recording on Koch is marked as with Eric Moe, piano – not a keyboard to be seen anywhere. Irvine Arditti has a version of 44 Harmonies from Apartment House 1776 on the Mode label which has to be interesting, but is for string quartet.

John Cage’s music is a world of sound which, if it does nothing else, should broaden your horizons and awaken realms of uncharted imagination. Annelie Gahl’s violin is good enough, but for my ears the mournful presence of the Fender Rhodes and the bizarre mixing of disparate works drags this recording into novelty territory.

Dominy Clements

Fender Rhodes fans, gather ‘round...… see Full Review


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.