In a week replete with intriguing cross-pollinations of style and sound, this may be both the most deliberate, yet the loosest-sounding.
With Cage's "number pieces", the relative absence of composer's stipulations means that the sensitivity of the players is paramount, and on these mid-Nineties recordings, the Essential Music Ensemble is clearly operating at its empathic peak. The pieces are named for the number of players, who are given flexible time-brackets within which to perform each "sound event". This recording is notable for including the very last piece written by Cage, "Thirteen", in which deep horn tones and xylophone tend to dominate the reeds and strings; more equable is "Five", realised here on blown bottles. On "Seven", flute and clarinet change pitch "almost imperceptibly", an effect resulting in a floating character of subtle beauty.
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