John Cage: Early Piano Music comes from Herbert Henck, an experienced hand with the work of Cage, having previously recorded Music for Piano, Music of Changes, and Sonatas and Interludes in addition to a mighty swath of first-tier twentieth-century literature for piano for various labels, most notably Wergo and ECM New Series. These are early works for standard, not prepared, piano, and some of these pieces will be as familiar to dyed-in-the-wool Cageans as "Happy Birthday." This puts the pressure on Henck to excel, and he does so spectacularly well here. The disc includes the two sets entitled Two Pieces for Piano, the piano version of The Seasons, Metamorphosis, In a Landscape, Ophelia, and the fragmentary Quest. The pieces date from 1935 to 1948, the same range covered by pianist Jeanne Kirstein in her pioneering 1967 survey of Cage's piano music for CBS Masterworks.
Between 1961 and 1986, Herbert von Karajan made three recordings of the Mozart Requiem for Deutsche Grammophon, with little change in his conception of the piece over the years. This recording, from 1975, is, on balance, the best of them. The approach is Romantic, broad, and sustained, marked by a thoroughly homogenized blend of chorus and orchestra, a remarkable richness of tone, striking power, and an almost marmoreal polish. Karajan viewed the Requiem as idealized church music rather than a confessional statement awash in operatic expressiveness. In this account, the orchestra is paramount, followed in importance by the chorus, then the soloists. Not surprisingly, the singing of the solo quartet sounds somewhat reined-in, especially considering these singers' pedigrees. By contrast, the Vienna Singverein, always Karajan's favorite chorus, sings with a huge dynamic range and great intensity, though with an emotional detachment nonetheless. Perfection, if not passion or poignancy, is the watchword. The Berlin orchestra plays majestically, and the sound is pleasingly vivid.