The Washington Post

Cage festival: the end

Composer John Cage (1912-1992) in 1981. And no, he wasn’t laughing at you, though he surely wouldn’t have minded if you’d laughed with him.(AP Photo/Bob Child) (Bob Child/AP)

I wrote a double review of my two weekend concerts. On Friday night, there was a six-hour series of percussion performances at American University, my favorites taking place in the museum where the university has hung a really nice and varied Cage show (that’s up til October 21; well worth a visit). This festival left me with a lasting affection for the crack ensemble red fish blue fish, which managed to be at once virtuosic and appealing; they were paired with the elder statesmen of the Percussion Group Cincinatti. Space constraints prevented my mentioning everything; left on the cutting room floor was my praise for one of the Cage tribute pieces, a movement of “In Preparation for the Storm,” written by a young composer named Tamzin Elliot; it played off Cage’s instrumentation and the vocal components of “Living Room Music,” with a catchy tag line, “Hey, rain, whatcha gonna do,” that both evoked Steve Reich (“It’s gonna rain”) and stuck in the ear thanks to the strong performance of red fish blue fish member Bonnie Whiting Smith.

On Saturday, Margaret Leng Tan, a star of the new music scene whose writing about her experiences with Cage was among the perks of this centennial season, gave a luminous performance of “Four Walls” (a long piece for choreography written in 1944).

The culminating concert came on Sunday night at the National Gallery; Stephen Brookes reviewed an event that united a lot of the stars of the week (Tan, Stephen Drury) and gave play to more tribute pieces, including works by two of the festival’s redoubtable organizers, Roger Reynolds and Steve Antosca. They deserve a huge hand for their part in bringing this memorable event to Washington.

Above: For those who couldn’t see it, an excerpt of “This Perilous Night” from Wednesday’s concert at the National Gallery, played by Jenny Lin, who also took part on Sunday in the final concert of Washington’s John Cage Centennial festival.

Other coverage: The San Diego Union-Tribune gave the festival blanket coverage, reviewing the opening concerts at the National Gallery and Maison Francaise on Wednesday; Arditti’s performance of the Freeman Etudes; the performances by Drury and Tan; Sunday’s National Gallery concert; and the final event on Monday, including a performance of “Steps.”

On Ionarts, Charles T. Downey reviewed Sunday’s National Gallery concert.

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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