Music by John Cage for Prepared Piano
Nigel Butterley (prepared piano), Gerald English (tenor)
$23 (Australian dollars)
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|Nigel Butterley is well-known as one of Australia's best composers. He has another life as a pianist and has been performing these Cage works for over 20 years. His sense of style and the colours he draws from the piano have been awarded the highest critical praise.|
|John Cage||Sonatas and Interludes (1946-50)|
|Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947)|
|The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (1942)|
|This CD was nominated for the 1993 ABC Record of the Year!|
"Butterley…is a fine and underrated pianist, especially in music which…oscillates between gentle meditation and whimsy…He brings 20 years' performing experience of these pieces to this recording…The recording captures the colours of the instrument very precisely…the recording reveals the subtleties of timbre better than any other I can remember…An important recording."
It is good to have a second recording of Cage's classic for prepared piano, the sound of which Virgil Thomson once described as a ping qualified by a thud. Gerard Fremy gave many performances, some in the presence of the composer, before recording the Sonatas and Interludes for the enterprising Etcetera label. That performance still wears well and it is interesting to compare the sound—all prepared pianos are far from alike. (The first work fo the instrument is Cage's Bacchanale. After long obscurity it is now on CD in two versions.) The attention currently given to Cage makes the 1974 Decca Headline LP (11/76—nla) of the Sonatas and Interludes played by John Tilbury seem ahead of its time and it, too, still sounds well.The Australian composer and pianist, Nigel Butterley, is clearly sympathetic to this side of Cage and also sustains the cycle successfully: as live performances reveal, this study in traditional Indian emotions is a complete entity. It is fully notated and the only variations between performances should be the preparations. The rhythmic aspect of Cage is closely worked out but all three performers at times need to observe more strictly both written sounds and silences—Cage was very particular about silence!Fremy is too slow in the opening sonata: Butterley is just right. In Nos. 2 and 7 Fremy seems to have got a more enticing sound, but in No. 4 both players shorten some notated silences. They are both convincing in the slightly more substantial movements in the middle and the increasingly meditative endings.If there is not much to choose between these two dedicated performances there is a bonus on the Australian Tall Poppies label: Gerald English adds to his profile on record by singing the James Joyce setting The Wonderful Widow (transposed into low range, as the composer invites). Unlike the 1958 New York Town Hall performance (recorded on LP by George Avakian) with Cage at the piano, the piano part played on the body of the instrument is reasonably accurate. The Music for Marcel Duchamp is a further bonus, making the Butterley disc the obvious buy.
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