- Sonatas and Interludes, for prepared piano
Easily the best known and most popular of John Cage's works for prepared piano, the "Sonatas and Interludes" (1946-1948) capture the imagination through their delicacy and exoticism. (The instrument, pioneered by Cage, is a piano that has been preset with various sound modifiers or "preparations" of different materials on its strings, hammers, and dampers.) Cédric Pescia's 2012 release on Æon is a worthy addition to the growing list of first-rate recordings, and the care and subtlety he brings to his performance contribute to the music's piquant charm and haunting ambience. Because much of this work is quite soft and sparse, and intended to be played with the lightest touch, listeners should pay close attention to follow Pescia's controlled and extremely refined interpretation. But be careful not to boost the volume too high, because there are some boldly accented and strongly rhythmic passages that provide contrast and may startle the unsuspecting listener. Even so, the overall character of "Sonatas and Interludes" is strongly reminiscent of Asian music, and the bell-like tones and repeated patterns can induce a soothing or meditative state, not unlike the effect of Javanese gamelan music. Thanks to close microphone placement, the varied sounds of the prepared piano are clearly distinguished and fully audible, and the resonant studio space lends a pleasant aura to the performance.