Despite interpretive quibblings involving possible Hungarian and German influences, the Lovely Music double-record set of these 16 etudes for solo violin is a winner. The gatefold packaging is handsome and sturdy, and a great deal of care went into recording the pieces over two years and some five recording sessions. The classy Radio Bremen took on this project involving violinist Janos Negyesy, and it compares well with the recordings of "Freeman Etudes" by violinist Paul Zukofsky, for whom the series was originally written. Cage's score is particularly strong in this case, overwhelming what seems like a faint effort to romanticize or create an artificial sense of climax. The knee-jerk critical reaction would be to blame this on Hungarian and German cultural influences, and perhaps this is a notion that makes sense in this case. Although in the case of the all-American Cage, it brings to mind an image of a hamburger being accidentally served topped with paprika and a side of sauerbraten. The instrument's overtones are well recorded and play out beautifully through the analog recording. One delightful aspect of "Freeman Etudes" is the marriage of Cage's brand of indeterminacy with the sound of the violin, an instrumental personality that is literally as old as the hills. Units of three or four pitches organized based on charts of the constellations wind up literally singing through the instrument as if an old-time fiddler was kicking up dust at a house party. The individual etudes are organized in sets of four on each side, making for a suite-like quality that works well, even if it wasn't the composer's original intention.
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AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne
|Freeman Etudes, Book 1|
|Freeman Etudes, Book 2|