Giancarlo Cardini, John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

George Grella

By George Grella

on 08.13.11 in Reviews
One of the finest recordings of his most popular work

The piano was Cage’s main instrument as a composer and a musician; he made money here and there accompanying dance classes, and could guarantee performances of his works by writing them for himself to play, even though, as he acknowledged, he was never much more than an adequate player. It was also the medium in which he made this, his first great breakthrough as a composer and a thinker. He combined two practices he had already been exploring, composing in strict rhythmic proportions, as in his percussion pieces, and preparing the piano by placing objects between the strings, which he began with his Bacchanale. Cage had, by the mid ’40s, begun studying Eastern philosophy, and found that the contrast between the bell and drum tones that the preparation created corresponded to European and Eastern sounds. The music features explicit moments of Western harmony and gamelan style writing. Not as fully systematized as later works, the Sonatas and Interludes (1946-48) opens the door to them. It’s also fascinating and beautiful, with great rhythmic force and unexpectedly gorgeous sounds from the piano. Easily Cage’s most popular work, it has had dozens of excellent recordings, of which this is one of the finest.