John Cage: As it is

Alexei Lubimov, Natalia Pschenitschnikova

CD18,90 out of print

A fresh approach to one of contemporary composition’s most iconoclastic and inventive figures, issued on the occasion of John Cage’s 100th birthday. Early Cage is the subject here, strikingly original songs and piano pieces from the 1930s and 1940s. Songs in which Cage sets words by writers whose vision was as independent as his own – James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, E. E. Cummings. As Paul Griffiths writes, “The music exists in singing that has a raw, living edge, and it exists in piano tone that can be utterly simple and utterly remarkable. There is also a third presence that of the producer, bringing forward the extraordinary resonances that come from Lubimov’s piano, with preparation or without.” Lubimov championed Cage’s work in Russia and later had a close working relationship with the composer. He grasps both the playfulness of the music and its message of freedom. Recorded December 2011 in Zürich.

Eine erfrischende Annäherung an eine der eingeständigsten und schöpferischsten Persönlichkeiten unter den modernen Komponisten, anlässlich John Cages 100. Geburtstag. Der frühe Cage ist hier das Thema, mit verblüffend originellen Liedern und Klavierstücken aus den 1930er und 1940er Jahren. Lieder, in denen Cage Texte von Autoren einbezog, deren Vision ähnlich unabhängig war wie seine eigene – James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, E. E. Cummings. Wie Paul Griffiths in den Liner Notes schreibt: “Die Musik existiert in einem Gesang, der eine unverfälscht lebendige Qualität hat, und sie existiert in einem Klavierklang, der zugleich völlig einfach und völlig bemerkenswert sein kann. Und da ist noch eine dritte Präsenz – die des Produzenten, der Lubimovs Flügel, egal ob präpariert oder nicht, außergewöhnliche Resonanzen entlockt.” Lubimov engagierte sich früh für Cages Werk in Russland und hatte später eine enge Arbeitsbeziehung mit dem Komponisten. Er versteht sowohl die verspielte Seite dieser Musik als auch ihre Botschaft von der Freiheit. Aufgenommen im Dezember 2011 in Zürich.
Featured Artists Recorded

December 2011, Radio Studio DRS, Zürich

Original Release Date


  • 1Dream
    (John Cage)
  • 2The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
    (John Cage, James Joyce)
  • 3The Unavailable Memory of
    (John Cage)
  • 4A Flower
    (John Cage)
  • 5Music for Marcel Duchamp
    (John Cage)
  • 6Experiences No. 2
    (John Cage, E.E. Cummings)
  • 7A Room
    (John Cage)
  • Three Songs
    (John Cage, Gertrude Stein)
  • 8I. Twenty years after00:30
  • 9II. Is it as it was00:55
  • 10III. At East and ingredients01:23
  • Two Pieces for Piano
    (John Cage)
  • 11I05:03
  • 12II05:19
  • Five Songs
    (John Cage, E.E. Cummings)
  • 131. little four paws01:42
  • 142. little Christmas tree03:37
  • 153. in Just-01:11
  • 164. hist whist00:59
  • 175. Tumbling hair01:06
  • 18Prelude for Meditation
    (John Cage)
  • 19She is Asleep
    (John Cage)
  • 20Nowth upon nacht
    (John Cage, James Joyce)
  • 21Dream, var.
    (John Cage)
In time for the John Cage centenary here is a wonderful and fresh account of the great iconoclast’s music that conveys the playfulness, the serenity and the sense of freedom that animated it from the outset. This is, mostly, early Cage. Music from the 1940s primarily but also settings of poems by Gertrude Stein and e.e. cummings from the 1930s, as well as ”Nowth Upon Nacht” a late entry from 1984, a composition in memory of Cathy Berberian for which Cage returned to the same page of James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” which had inspired his “Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs” in 1942.

Our interpreters here: Alexei Lubimov, pianist, and Natalia Pschenitschnikova, singer. As Paul Griffiths writes in the liner notes “the music exists between them and the composer. It exists in singing that has a raw living edge and it exists in piano tone that can be utterly simple and utterly remarkable.” Several of the pieces feature prepared piano, Cage’s particular innovation, effectively transforming the grand piano into makeshift Gamelan orchestra, conjuring gonglike sonorities from its harp of strings by the simple expedient of adding nuts, bolts, screws and pieces of wood and rubber weather-stripping. “There is also a third presence”, Griffiths notes, “that of the producer [Manfred Eicher] bringing forward the extraordinary resonances that come from Lubimov’s piano, with preparation or without.”

Lubimov was one of the artists who consistently championed Cage’s work in Russia from the 1960s onwards. He gave the first monographic concert of his music at the Moscow Conservatoire in 1976, “to the fury of the academic professors” as the pianist recalls in the performer’s note here. By 1988 resistance to things Western, even experimental things, had relaxed a little and the Composers Union of the USSR was able to invite Cage to Leningrad. Lubimov and Natalia Pschenitschnikova met him in Moscow on his way there. A few weeks later both participated in a meanwhile legendary five-hour Cage concert at the Alternative Contemporary Music Days at the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture. In 1991 Lubimov had contact to Cage in New York and he and Pschenitschnikova have continued to play his music through the years.

Alexei Lubimov previously included Cage’s “In A Landscape” on his acclaimed ECM recital disc “Der Bote”, recorded in 2000.

“As It Is” was recorded at the DRS Radio Studio Zürich in December 2011.