The Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra is one of Cage's most delicate works. The orchestra is treated as a group of soloists throughout, and for the most part operate with a small set of pitches and timbres, but is extended by a large array of percussion instruments played by four players. The piano, played by the superb contemporary piano interpreter Stephen Drury, weaves between the orchestral sonorities, rarely taking extended solos, as the piece becomes progressively more sparse until it tapers into silence at the end. The Concert for Piano and Orchestra, although only written six years after the prepared piano concerto, has a completely different emphasis. Whereas the Concerto is completely composed, the Concert is a collection of parts which may be put together in any combination for any length of time. New music pioneer David Tudor, in his last recorded piano performance, plays electronics as well as the piano in this scintillating performance. Sonic gestures from the entire orchestral palette accompany Tudor's interpretations of Cage's experimental and beautifully artistic notations. Fourteen is from Cage's last years and is one of his 'number pieces,' so called based on the number of performers. The number pieces generally are completely notated in terms of pitch, but the durations are specified within time brackets, and the dynamics almost always very quiet. Most unusually, the piano keyboard is not played at all, but the piano (again played by Drury, who directs the ensemble here as well) is bowed using nylon fishing line, resulting in a quiet, shimmering piece, mostly for bowed piano solo, but occasionally colored by other instruments.
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AllMusic Review by Caleb Deupree
|Concerto, for prepared piano & chamber orchestra|