The pieces Cage conceived as conceptual can vary widely in their effectiveness in performance. Some are sure-fire successes; 4' 33," is, contrary to the skeptics' expectations, almost guaranteed to hold an audience enthralled. (Check out the Frank Zappa version on Koch's A Chance Operation if you can find it.) Other pieces are based on intriguing ideas that may or may not sound especially intriguing in any given performance. Atlas Eclipticalis is a case in point. It uses one of Cage's most organically satisfying concepts: organizing the duration, intensity, and pitches of the music based on a celestial map of the constellations. Scored for up to 86 instrumental parts, the work can be a sonic tour-de-force as an evocation of a starry night sky when played by a large ensemble capable of a wide variety of timbres. In the version recorded here for two cellos, played by Friedrich Gauwerky, he overdubs a tape of himself. The result is a sketchy and random-sounding assortment of cello sounds and special effects that is neither particularly evocative nor coherent. This realization remains faithful to Cage's intent and would satisfy his expectations of a successful performance, but it is not a particularly gratifying experience for the listener. The same can be said for most of the other pieces included on the CD. Three of the pieces, in addition to Atlas Eclipticalis, are realizations of parts of other works using solo cello. The Études Boréales for violoncello solo have a more discernible musical coherence. Friedrich Gauwerky plays with utter conviction and musicality. The CD will probably be of interest primarily to fans of the Cageian aesthetic.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Concert, for piano & orchestra, for piano & 13 other instruments in any combination|
|Etudes Boreales I-IV, for solo cello|