Cage: Works For Piano 7 / Margaret Leng Tan

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A major discovery and first recording of an important Cage piece from 1944. In 1944, John Cage was invited to participate in "The Imagery of Chess" exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. The artists included Calder, Noguchi, Motherwell, Breton, Duchamp, Ernst, Man Ray, Tanning and other leading surrealists. Cage contributed a painting entitled "Chess Pieces". It was purchased at the show and went into a private collection. For decades it was deemed lost and was (almost) forgotten by Cage afficionados and scholars.

Re-assembling the original artworks for "The Imagery of Chess Revisited" show (2005-06) at the Isamu Noguchi Museum in New York led to the tracking down of the Cage painting. Cage expert Margaret Leng Tan set about transcribing the music in the painting into a playable score which receives its premiere recording here.

Chess Pieces is from 1944, an emotional and creative year for Cage; besides echoes of Satie, Chess Pieces contains prophetic touches of minimalism and has features in common with his monumental piano piece, Four Walls, from the same year.

A renowned Cage interpreter, Ms. Tan worked closely with the composer from 1981 to 1992. Cage was particularly appreciative of her performances of his works for the prepared piano. This is Ms. Tan's long-awaited recording of Cage's prepared piano masterpiece, the Sonatas and Interludes of 1946-48.

Also included is the first recording of the only other musical score from "The Imagery of Chess" show, neo-classical composer Vittorio Rieti's Chess Serenade.

Also available as a surround sound DVD (MOD-DV158) with full performance videos of Chess Pieces and Chess Serenade, plus 2 documentaries: Mr. Cage's Prepared Piano (Ms. Tan takes an in-depth look at the prepared piano), and CAGE: Music/Art/Chess (a closeup look at Cage's and Rieti's pieces in the Noguchi Museum's "The Imagery of Chess Revisited" show).

* Mr. Cage's Prepared Piano: an insightful look at the history of the prepared piano narrated and performed by Ms. Tan, who also demonstrates how to (and not to) prepare a piano, and describes the preparations in detail both visually and sonically. She prepares and performs excerpts from Bacchanale, Cage's first prepared piano work, and Sonatas & Interludes.
* Cage and the Art of Chess: a visit to "The Imagery of Chess Revisited" exhibit at the Isamu Noguchi Museum with curator Larry List and Ms. Tan. Together they describe Cage's relationship to the show and examine the "Chess Pieces" painting in detail - they also discuss Rieti and his Chess Serenade. Mr. List explores a separate feature on Cage's wife, Xenia Cage, and her Chess Table (Xenia was an artist and also had a piece in the show) and sheds additional background on her life and work.

24-bit surround sound DTS and Dolby Digital surround.
Dedicated 24-bit stereo mix.
English, French, German and Spanish subtitles.

NOTE: Sonatas & Interludes is not accompanied by video.


"The seventh volume of John Cage's piano works -- or Volume 34 of the Complete John Cage Edition, if you prefer -- features a transcendent performance of the Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1948) meticulously rendered by avant-garde keyboardist extraordinaire, Margaret Leng Tan. Yet Volume 2 in this series features a 1994 recording of the same work, played by Philipp Vandre. For those aiming to collect the full series, this may be an annoyance, but others catching these CDs as they are released will surely appreciate having Tan's superb interpretation of the Sonatas and Interludes, with premiere recordings of Cage's long-lost Chess Pieces for piano (1944) and Vittorio Rieti's Chess Serenade (1944) as bonuses, rather than search for the older disc of the single work. But despite seeming redundant, this CD is clearly one to get: Tan is simply remarkable in the Sonatas and Interludes, giving a realization that is scrupulous in execution, deep in sonic dimensions, and luminous in color; and she offers what is actually a 'period performance,' since she plays a piano identical in its specifications to the small Steinway Cage originally prepared in the process of composition. The differences in sonorities between this album and others are immediately noticeable, especially in this recording's superior resonance and crystalline details; anyone who already knows this work will recognize that Tan's interpretation is truly Cagean in its poetic nuances and hypnotic power. So without disparaging other recordings for being less authoritative -- certainly, Tan holds a considerable advantage for having worked closely with Cage in his final years -- it is safe to say that fans of his most popular piano work will give this album full marks. Mode's sound quality is ideal, too, so this CD receives the highest recommendation. --- Blair Sanderson,, March 2006

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: MOD-DV-158

  • UPC: 764593015895

  • Label: Mode

  • Composer: John Cage, Vittorio Rieti

  • Performer: Margaret Leng Tan