At Juilliard, Focus! 2012 Concludes its Celebration of John Cage

15/02/2012

Focus! 2012, Sounds Re-imagined: John Cage at 100 (Concert VI): Soloists, New Juilliard Ensemble, Joel Sachs (conductor), Alice Tully Hall, New York City, 3.2.2012 (BH)

Katya Gruzglina, soprano
Lilla Heinrich Szász, soprano
Nathaniel LaNasa, prepared piano
Allegra Chapman, piano

All-John Cage

Fourteen (1990) with Litany for the Whale (1980)
The Seasons (1947)
John Cage speaks (selections from Indeterminacy)
Five movements from Sixteen Dances (1950-51)
Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra (1950-51)
Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-58) with Aria (1958)

Why doesn’t The Seasons – John Cage’s first ballet score, written for Merce Cunningham – show up on concert programs more often? Perhaps more than any Cage score I’ve ever heard, this one, with a whiff of Debussy, would seem to please all but the most ardent Cage naysayers. Written for a large chamber ensemble, the work’s luxurious, transparent string chords drift by, crest, and disappear, and Joel Sachs and the New Juilliard ensemble gave them a shimmering transparence in this final concert of Focus! 2012 titled Sound Re-imagined: John Cage at 100. I could easily see it programmed (with or without irony) with Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, imparting added resonance to both.

The lively first half began with two works performed simultaneously: Fourteen (denoting the number of players) and Litany for the Whale (for two voices). In the latter, Katya Gruzglina and Lilla Heinrich Szász were the two sopranos, whose chant-like tones were slowly engulfed by the slow-moving rhythms of the chamber ensemble (all standing). It would probably sound terrific in a church. On an interesting technical note, the piece requires bowed piano, which as Sachs explained would have been a “logistical nightmare,” so a keyboard was used instead, programmed to replicate the delicate sounds.

As in the first night, Sachs played some of the selections from Indeterminacy, with the composer musing on everything from high society to travel to gathering mushrooms. Sixteen Dances was based on Hindu culture and also choreographed by Cunningham, and here the musicians presented five of the sections, with their icy sounds and frequent silences. Nathaniel LaNasa was the excellent soloist in Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra, with the doctored instrument producing delicate timbres ranging from faint overtones to percussive rattling. (If it seemed perhaps slightly too long, it’s no fault of the performers; I am aligned with those who think that not all of Cage’s scores are equally successful.)

The evening closed with a hilarious composite of Concert for Piano and Orchestra – with Allegra Chapman as the soloist – with Ms. Szász returning to add Aria to the mix. While the musicians played, vocalized and deconstructed their instruments – the trombonist here was particularly riveting, blowing through the mouthpiece alone and dropping his mutes – the soprano fleshed out the fiendish difficulties of the vocal part. At one point, a particularly piercing, call-an-ambulance-now-caliber scream ignited a brief wave of laughter in the large, warmly responsive audience – a fitting end to an evening that would have had Cage himself smiling.

Bruce Hodges

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Northampton’s 13th Malcolm Arnold Festival – 13 to 14 October 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! See Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen this Autumn __________________________________
  • NEW! This October Carlos Acosta Returns to London to Celebrate Thirty Years in Dance __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Chamber Music Festival October 2018 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! LMTO Bring Camelot Back to the West End for the First Time in 30 Years on 6 October __________________________________
  • NEW! JACK BUCKLEY’S MEMORIES OF LINDSAY KEMP (1938-2018) __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! The Roman River Music Festival Returns This September __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Appreciation Talks this Autumn from Helen Astrid __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Major Work by Stanford to be Premiered – 99 Years Late! __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR ALEXANDER SLADKOVSKY IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month