The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Friedrich Gauwerky (cello)
Composer: Cage

Only the two minutes of Variations 1 are credited as being a version ‘by Gauwerky’, but nearly all of the music on this disc demands him to be as much composer as performer. For Cage, the distinction was fairly irrelevant anyway. Just as a musician can put minimal or maximum effort into interpreting the composer’s elegant graphic scores or meticulously calligraphed sets of instructions and still call it Cage, so listeners must be both willing and able to jettison conventions of preordained narratives to accept that the only ‘story’ to the music is the one they themselves invent.

One inadvertent consequence is that even a sympathetic listener needs to keep a close eye on the CD display to see where one piece stops and another starts, even though they range from the decidedly elliptical Études boreales of 1978 back to 59 ½ Seconds for a string player of 1953. The latter is the only minute on the disc that Cage fully notated. The works that come closest to a discrete style or language are the Solo for cello, drawn from the ground-breaking Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957–8), and Atlas eclipticalis (1961), one of Cage’s most genuinely visionary works. Gauwerky’s double-tracked, half-hour version for two cellos of course sounds completely different from the versions for solo flute and for full orchestra that are otherwise available, but it captures all the starry-eyed wonder of the night sky. Wergo’s engineering is typically unfussy, capturing a performer with total if unobtrusive mastery of his instrument. 

Peter Quantrill