John Cage: Violin & Piano

Andreas Seidel / Steffen Schleiermacher

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John Cage: Violin & Piano Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

John Cage's violin and piano music falls into two camps; two pieces written at the end of his early period -- Nocturne (1947) and Six Melodies (1950) -- and two more at the end of his life: the Number Pieces Two4 (1991) and Two6 (1992). This MDG release, John Cage: Violin & Piano, features the four works as performed by violinist Andreas Seidel and ever-ubiquitous pianist Steffen Schleiermacher. As annotator, Schleiermacher draws a parallel between Cage's Nocturne and his small subset of works inspired by the example of Satie. One might argue that it seems kind of singular in his worklist, being an essentially impressionistic study that vaguely relates to Cage's Sonatas and Interludes in a rhythmic sense but to no other Cage work in that the relationship between soloist and accompaniment is clearly defined. Cage's Six Melodies for violin and piano relate more directly to the String Quartet in Four Parts (1950) a bit more than Schleiermacher indicates in the notes, as the two works share the same aggregates, but are put together in a different way. Seidel and Schleiermacher get a half hour out of Two4 (a bit short) and 20 minutes from Two6 (about a minute above the average), though in the latter piece they take a bit too much advantage of Cage's alternative instruction that one can substitute silence for some of the time brackets indicated in the work; much of the last half of the performance is simply invisible, and one wonders if the CD is even playing or not. While these performances are not bad, there are numerous alternatives for these works available. With a minimum of diligent searching, one can find better, and it's worth it; Six Melodies is one of Cage's most approachable and immediately satisfying compositions.

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