John Tilbury

John Cage: Sonatas & Interludes for Prepared Piano

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Even though pianist John Tilbury gave this mesmerizing performance of John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano in 1974, his original Decca recording wasn't released internationally on CD until 2006. Thanks to the reissue label Explore Records, this exceptional performance has been rescued from the vaults, so listeners can treat themselves to one of the most transparently clear and close-up recordings ever made of this scintillating work. Despite being an ADD recording, this is surprisingly noise-free and only the slightest amount of tape hiss can be detected. Fortunately, it is barely noticeable when Tilbury plays, because his carefully measured phrases, subtle dynamics, and sharply articulated rhythms are so captivating that they can practically hypnotize listeners. Tilbury belongs to a comparatively small group of musicians who mastered the intricacies of Cage's prepared piano, an instrument sonically altered through the application of small objects to the strings. As is typical of pianists drawn to this kind of music in the first place, his playing is committed, utterly fastidious, and self-effacing. As a result, one listens to this album with a suspension of all expectations, least of all any expectation of what the pianist might be trying to express, and takes each group of pitches or bell-like tones on its own terms, as novel sounds passing through time, rather like the soothing cycles of gamelan music. For anyone new to the music of John Cage, this disc is a wonderful introduction.

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