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John Cage: Music for Piano 1–84

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Artikelnummer: NEOS 10703/04 Kategorien: ,
Veröffentlicht am: Mai 15, 2007

Infotext:

Indem John Cage den Blick über unbeschriebenes, weißes Papier wandern ließ – 1952, im selben Jahr, als auch das Stück „4’33” entstand und er damit die Erkenntnis beförderte, dass es keine Stille geben kann, die nicht klangträchtig sei – entdeckte Cage eine seiner radikalsten Lösungen: „Plötzlich sah ich, dass die Noten, alle Noten, bereits da standen”. Damit war die Grundidee für die vielteilige Reihe der „Music for Piano” gefunden.

Cage hatte kleine Unregelmäßigkeiten, Erhebungen oder winzige Flecken auf der Oberflächenstruktur des Papierbogens entdeckt, vollkommen regellos verteilt. Innerhalb eines vorgewählten Zeitintervalls markierte er nun mit Tinte so viele dieser Unregelmäßigkeiten, wie er erkennen konnte. Er erhielt so die absolut zufällige Konstellation eines Punktefeldes. Darüber legte er dann ein transparentes Notenpapier, um die Punkte vermittels Schlüsselung und Hilfslinien als exakte Tonhöhen zu bestimmen. Per Zufallsverfahren wurde jedem der so gefundenen Töne schließlich ein dynamischer Wert zwischen Pianissimo und Fortissimo sowie gegebenenfalls ein Vorzeichen zugeordnet.

Auf diese Weise entstand 1952 die „Music for Piano 1” zu einer Choreographie von Jo Anne Melcher und Jahrs darauf für die Tänzerin Louise Lippold die „Music for Piano 2”.

Im Ausgleich zu seinem unablässigen künstlerischen Bemühen, Zufall immer wieder neu dingfest zu machen an den Koinzidenz- und Kreuzungspunkten unabhängig von einander verlaufender Ereignisreihen, begann er 1954/55 verstärkt im Universum der Mykologie heimisch zu werden. Vielleicht, dass eine weitere Metaphysik des Findens ihn umtrieb? Wo immer er Gelegenheit hatte, Pilze zu suchen und zu bestimmen, ging Cage dieser Leidenschaft fortan mit professionellem Tiefgang nach – auch, und darauf wies er lächelnd hin, weil die Wörter „mushroom” für Pilz und „music” für Musik in vielen Lexika gleich aufeinander folgen.

Mit den Jahren wurde er zu einem Pilzexperten. Er verfasste ein Pilzbuch mit Illustrationen bedeckt von japanischem Seidenpapier. In einem italienischen Fernseh-Quiz gewann er mit seinem Fachwissen viel Geld. Er meditierte über das mysteriöse unterirdische Wachstum der Myzelien, Flechten und Fruchtkörper in japanischen Zen-Gärten oder amerikanischen Wäldern, konnte schwärmen und sich einfühlen in die Horizonte aus Klang und Stille dieses oder jenes Pilzes, der „einzeln wächst oder in Ansammlungen, gelegentlich auch in Büscheln zu je fünf bis sechs Einzelgewächsen. Solch ein Flecken Erde ist kostbar…”

Im Rahmen des riesigen Oeuvres von John Cage bilden die insgesamt 84 Solo-Stücke der „Music for Piano” eines der Schlüsselwerke aus der mittleren Schaffensperiode.

Mit Sabine Liebner haben wir eine kongeniale Interpretin für diese Musik gefunden. Ihr besonderes Interesse gilt den amerikanischen Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts. Ihr  Repertoire amerikanischer Musik umfasst Werke von Henry Cowell, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, Tom Johnson, sie spielt nahezu alle Kompositionen für Klavier von John Cage und Morton Feldman. 1998 und 2007 erhielt sie jeweils den Förderpreis für Musik der Stadt München, 2005 ein Stipendium für Musik der Stadt München, 2007 wurde sie zur vom Goethe-Institut empfohlenen deutschen Pianistin gewählt.

Programm:

CD 1

[01] 03:39 Music for Piano 1 (1952)
[02] 04:29 Music for Piano 2 (1953)

[03] 01:30 Music for Piano 3 (1953)
[04] 17:20 Music for Piano 4–19 (1953)
[05] 02:16 Music for Piano 20 (1953)
[06] 31:01 Music for Piano 21–36 (1955)

gesamt: 60:34

CD 2

[01] 21:09 Music for Piano 37–52 (1955)
[02] 16:29 Music for Piano 53–68 (1956)

[03] 16:01 Music for Piano 69–84 (1956)

gesamt: 53:50

 

Sabine Liebner, Klavier

Pressestimmen:


01.01.2008

Una soberbia división de los planos sonoros, de un extraordinario efecto de espacialización. El resultado es deslumbrante.


24.01.2008

Sabine Liebner: CAGE Music for Piano 1–84 on NEOS

This is essential Cage, and Sabine Liebner has created a magical performance of it. The term “created” is not used lightly here. Music for Piano , composed between 1952 and 1956, consists of 84 brief pieces for unmodified (i.e., not prepared) piano. These are based on a scheme of composition that presents a performer with, minimally, all of the notes to be played. How, and exactly when, these notes should be played in any given performance, is left indeterminate in specific ways that vary among the pieces. For example, No. 1 of the series consists of conventionally notated whole notes, which have been assigned specific dynamics and accidentals by the composer. There are no bar lines; the individual notes are to be played as encountered in a uniform time flow. A preface lays down rules for performance in Cage’s neat capital letters: “DURATIONS FREE. PEDALLING FREE. MANNER OF PRODUCING PIANO SOUNDS FREE, INCLUDING PIZZ STRING, SCRATCHING AND MUTING STRINGS, PRODUCTION OF HARMONICS, ETC.”

Whew! What is a performer to do? The notes accompanying this release suggest what is required: “A valid interpretation can . . . only be achieved by a player who has a fine sense of the integrity and secret life of the individual sound event, who has an unerring sense for proportions in pitch space that are non causal with respect to time . . . . His or her playing should be precise and should pay attention to the balancing of indifferent beauties.”

Those of us who first heard this music played by John Cage and David Tudor, who surely epitomized these very qualities, were struck by the way they made the integrity and cold beauty of this music seem somehow inevitable. That is just what Liebner does here. In Fanfare 29:3, Art Lange reviewed her performance of Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories , another colossal work amenable to a rich variety of interpretive approaches. He observed that “Liebner suggests a view towards infinity, the kind of mythic resonance projected in Mark Rothko’s paintings.” Music for Piano has nothing to do with Rothko. (Cage “discovered” the actual notes of Music for Piano by circling the imperfections he found on blank sheets of paper.) But here too, Liebner has created a performance suffused with “mythic resonance.”

There are no beginnings, middles or ends, no chords, no tempos. Much of the music consists of silences (sometimes very long ones), which are broken by the appearance, always anticipated, always unexpected, of a single note, or a sudden cluster of them, each with a life of its own. In Liebner’s hands, the different voices of the piano, invoked from inside the piano or keyboard, at times evoke the illusion of an ensemble whose members are engaging in momentary dialogues or counterpoints with each other. It is simultaneously riveting and peaceful. The subtlety and range of the timbres Liebner summons from the instrument are well nigh inexhaustible, but entirely natural; the music remains always itself. You can’t (or at least I can’t) hear the ending of one piece and the beginning of the next. Such things are just another source of silences (and not necessarily the longest ones).

Over the nearly two-hour span of this music, you can find yourself at some points intensely—electrically—involved, at other times wandering around the house or outside, listening to how the music changes as you change perspective, or listening to how other sounds in the environment interact with the music. It will never sound exactly the same, or be experienced exactly the same, twice. It is not music that compels you to react to it in a specific way, but rather invites you to wander through it in ways that will change on each hearing.

Cage sought new ways of composing, performing, and hearing music in all his many works of indeterminacy, of which this is one of the first. How he did this is the subject of many fascinating anecdotes and philosophical discussions, with the consequence that the point of it all—the music itself—can sometimes get lost in the Zen. Liebner gives us a performance that reminds us how compelling this music actually can be. The recording is superb.

I have yet to hear other recorded performances of this particular work, which intrinsically can have no “best” or “definitive” realization. Another complete traversal is on Volume 2 of Steffen Schleirmacher’s complete traversal of Cage’s piano music. Art Lange reviewed this in Fanfare 22:2. All of Music for Piano is on it, including a final piece from 1962, No. 85, which departs from the earlier ones by introducing electronics into the mix. Several other pianists have tackled at least portions of the series. They will all “sound” completely different, of course. Cage wanted both performers and listeners to explore ways this music can be experienced. Sabine Liebner’s splendid performance (coupled with a timely Amazon gift certificate) has kindled a strong desire on my part to do so. It may well have the same effect on you. In any event, don’t miss this one.

Peter Stokely


11/12.2007



11.2007

Review by Uncle Dave Lewis

John Cage: Music for Piano 1-84 (or 85, if you count an appended piece for piano and electronics not composed until 1962; the main work dates from 1952-1956) is a cycle of piano pieces closely related to his Music of Changes (1951). The main difference, if one cares to observe it, is in terms of instrumentation — Music for Piano 4-19 and 21-84 are scored for „piano, or any number of pianos.“ Pianist Sabine Liebner opts to perform this unwieldy, two-hour-long cycle on solo piano in German label NEOS‘ ambitious John Cage: Music for Piano 1-84.

Like Music of Changes, the 84 pieces in the cycle, ranging from the longest (Music for Piano 2 at four and a half minutes) to many tiny miniatures only a few seconds long, were composed through chance procedures. Amplification of imperfections in the music paper Cage was writing on was the main method of determining pitch; duration, dynamics, and other parameters were arrived at through a mixture of other methods, coin tosses and the use of playing cards, yarrow sticks, and so forth. Cage was consciously attempting to bring into the world music that, as much as possible, generated itself without his intervention, and just like everything else he tried, the result sounds just like — John Cage.

Playing such music is a lot more difficult than it sounds on the other end. With his earliest chance derived compositions, such as Music for Piano 1 here, Cage discovered that his process was very work intensive and yielded results that were denser than what he most likely desired; these pieces were intended for use in dance performances, where a certain amount of negative space was desirable. By adding silence into the mix, Cage achieved the lightness of texture that he wanted. This calls for extreme concentration on the part of the performer; you have to be patient enough to wait out the long silences Cage calls for and put the right note in the right place in a texture in which predictable patterns are completely absent. In this respect, Liebner does an admirable job in this set and she plays close attention to the widely ranging dynamics in this long work, most often assigned to single pitches, rather than passages. NEOS‘ close, nicely atmospheric recording captures Liebner’s playing in its essence without extraneous noises in music often so quiet that the breathing of the pianist would be in danger of showing up in the finished product.

None of this, of course, answers the essential question, should you listen? Absolutely. Once you are past the uncharacteristically dense Music for Piano 1, the music opens up into its regular, spatial realm and this unobtrusive, graceful, and surprisingly pianistic music can make for a great accompaniment to late-night reading or any other instance where one wants music that fills a space, but does not take over.


08.2007

Télérama 29. August 2007

 

La Vanguardia 14. November 2007

Auszeichnungen & Erwähnungen:


01.01.2008

Una soberbia división de los planos sonoros, de un extraordinario efecto de espacialización. El resultado es deslumbrante.

 


Télérama

29. August 2007

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