Cage: Aria with Fontana Mix

By Clark, Philip | Gramophone, August 2015 | Go to article overview

Cage: Aria with Fontana Mix


Clark, Philip, Gramophone


Cage

Aria with Fontana Mix. A Chant with Claps. Sonnekus2. Eight Whiskus. A Flower. The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs. Nowth Upon Nacht. Experiences No 2. Ryoanji Nicholas Isherwood bass-bar BIS (F) [SACD]. BIS2149 (45' * DDD/DSD)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In her magnificent recent biography of Charlotte Moorman the New York cellist who moulded modern composition towards sexualised performance art, nudity coming as standard--Joan Rothfuss describes how the only feeling the cellist ever aroused in John Cage was one of disdain. Moorman was 'performing' Cage's music too self-consciously; sound had become subservient to the performance act remade as spectacle.

And here you'll notice that the bassbaritone Nicholas Isherwood is billed as 'performing' rather than 'singing' Cage. Isherwood's reverberant voice, rich like steamed lobster flesh, lends a wholly unexpected flavour to early-period Cage songs: existing performances of 'The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs' (1942) and 'A Flower' (1950) from Joelle Leandre, Joan La Barbara and Arline Carmen (with Cage on piano) have no point of connection with operatic pomp.

But if you suspect this disc is about to suffer a critical drubbing on the grounds of stylistic impurity, fear not: Isherwood is far too wise and sensitive to misrepresent Cage. …

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