Cage festival: more reviews

The John Cage festival continues through Monday, and it’s already offered Washington the strongest and longest string of memorable contemporary music I can remember experiencing since I got here in 2008. (Wait — is John Cage, who died in 1992, “contemporary?” Should he be? Discuss.)

I couldn’t go to all of the concerts, and I regret the ones I missed. Stephen Brookes attended, on Wednesday, a concert by the cellist Alexis Descharmes, joined by other notable artists, at the Maison Francaise. (Michael Lodico offered his view on Ionarts.)

I did go hear Irvine Arditti play the complete Freeman Etudes at the Phillips — an event that, as I explained in my review, I had looked forward to as a highlight, but that left me slightly disappointed. I know that past Arditti performances of these works have been rapturously received, though this was the first time he played the entire cycle in the US, and his recording certainly counts as definitive. But his approach seemed more about hitting the notes, in a very conventional classical music manner, than about inhabiting the work.

Charles T. Downey, on Ionarts, had his own reasons for sharing my ambivalence. There’s no question that this — like more than one Cage piece — is an endurance test.

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.

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