This is a marvelous release, equally perfect in conception, execution, and engineering. The program locates the intellectual origins of the American avant-garde composers Morton Feldman and John Cage not in postwar European developments, but in the music of Erik Satie, who with each decade seems a more pioneering figure. Feldman and Cage here seem not modernists, but postmodernists. Front and center at the beginning is Feldman's masterpiece Rothko Chapel (1967), a chamber-ensemble-and-chorus evocation of the Houston, Texas, chapel adorned with paintings by, and partly designed by, the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko.
Nicholas Isherwood made his début as Lucifer in Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht at Covent Garden, at the age of 25, and has since collaborated closely with composers such as George Crumb, Hans Werner Henze, György Kurtág and Iannis Xenakis. His relationship with John Cage soon developed into what he in his liner notes to the disc calls ‘a love affair’. The composer Sylvano Bussotti has remarked that ‘since the passing of Cathy Berberian, Nicholas Isherwood is the singer who best understands the spirit of the music of John Cage’. On ARIA, Isherwood presents most of Cage’s music for solo voice that is not included in the composer’s Song Books, and most pieces are here recorded for the first time by a male singer. The programme covers 43 years, from A Chant with Claps from the early 1940s to Ryoanji and Sonnekus2 of the 1980s, and includes the celebrated Aria, here performed with a new multi-channel tape realization of Cage’s Fontana Mix, by the Italian composer Gianluca Verlingieri.
John Cage's austere Four Walls was composed in 1944 for Merce Cunningham's dance play of the previous year, and marks the beginning of a long and productive collaboration between the two artists. Except for the dance's structure, which was carefully planned in advance, Cage's music operated fairly independently of Cunningham's choreography, and its strictly timed sections alternated between fragmentary, song-like passages in modal harmony and aggressive bursts of expanding and contracting patterns, often in bare octaves.
John Cage (1912-1992) was one of the most controversial composers of the 20th century. He is best known for his 1952 work 4'33" which involves not a single note of music being played. This selection of Cage's music provides a rare opportunity to get to know a range of works that were written between the years 1939-65, which were some of the composer's most productive years.