Prelude For Meditation (1944) for prepared piano.
Ryoanji (1985) for trombone solo with percussion.
Two5 (1991) for piano & tenor trombone
Dream (1948) for piano solo
Digital Recording: Studio DRS Zu"rich on January 4 and 5, 1993.
This is, on first glance, a curious collection of works by John Cage to be assembled on one disc, the two early works, Prelude for Meditation from 1944 and Dream from 1948, are combined with late-period works, Ryoanji from 1985 and Two5 from 1991. But this is not so. All of them are centered on Cage's experience with both chance operation and Zen. The centerpiece here is Ryoanji, named for the famous meditation garden in Japan that Cage visited in 1962. In that garden were 15 stones, casually arranged, in a space replete with carefully raked sand and the stones rising out of moss. There were two groups of two, two groups of three, and one of five. Cage's score for Ryoanji called for orchestra or solo instruments and percussion, which is supposed to begin two measures before the first page of the score. That percussion, comprised of the wood and metal of Hildegard Kleeb's piano, which is tapped, slapped, and even beaten in one section, signals the piece's beginning. But instead of an orchestra or a soloist, there are four overdubbed trombones, playing - seemingly at random - a piece where microtonality is almost given a new definition; it is very difficult to discern where the end of one trombone and the beginning of another takes place in the line of the score, and there is just sound in a seemingly open space. The percussion, which continues to two measures after the score's end, is meant to portray the sand as the trombones are the stones. This "sand" is carefully placed, allowing for a resonance and a soft place for the placement of the "stones." The near 40-minute length of Two5 is remarkable in its rigorous insistence on both the awareness by the performers of space as a "non-place" and the complexity of how the score is arranged to bring out the microtonalities of the trombone by virtue of its semitones - located six steps between. Kleeb, a virtuoso of 20th century music, is relentless in her poise and control; the tension placed on each note is precise and brings out actual space in the piece rather than metonymically referring to it. Trombonist Roland Dahinden has his ear firmly placed in the openness of the piano while stretching to hear the tones the score notates before playing them. He does so flawlessly. The other two pieces - especially Dream for solo piano - are truly inspiring in their use of space or their exploration of silence as a territory not demarcated by its lack, but by its fullness.
All Music Guide