Sonatas&interludes – Reviews and Radio broadcasting

New release 2023
Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano – John Cage
by Neuma Records (2023)

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Physical copy and digital download on
Bandcamp and Neuma Records (from March, 17th)

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REVIEWS (last update March 2023):

Best Bandcamp Contemporary Classical – March 2023
Indeed, holding up this recording against interpretations by John Tilbury, James Tenney, or Herbert Henck reveals subtle, gratifying differences. Toniutti dives into the music with a bracing mix of precision and openness, adding valuable new wrinkles and reinforcing the enduring pleasures of the music.
Petere Margasak, Bandcamp Best Contemporary Classical , April 4th, 2023

…a fresh look into the seven decades old music that both her playing and her musicological insights make as fresh as if the work had been composed last year.”
Rafael de Acha, All about the Arts , February 27th, 2023
“The prepared piano was one of the legacies of composer John Cage, and this album with Agnese Toniutti gives a tribute to the iconoclastic sound and attitude. Is the listener prepared for the prepared piano?”
George W.Harris, Jazz Weekly, February 27th, 2023

“The sound of the work has something special, different from many other editions of this repertoire… we have reason to believe that Cage would have appreciated this magical playful “humus.” Needless to note Toniutti’s performing gracefulness, which blends with that precision of accent inescapable in the most “antipianistic” pianism of the 20th century, devoid of emphasis, restored to a welcoming, almost meditative dimension.”
Marco Maria Tosolini, Il Gazzettino, March 8th, 2023

“Agnese Toniutti, among the greatest “performers” of contemporary classical music, interprets to perfection this summa of modern culture, an authentic watershed for twentieth-century expressive research: nineteen short pieces, composed between1946 and 1948, for the so-called “prepared piano,” within which unusual objects are inserted to distort its sonority, which, in turn, in the writing, looks to Erik Satie, to alea, to acoustic-philosophical India. And the pianist, in approaching the instrument, opts for the wonder of intonation and the delicacy of timbre.”
Guido Michelone, Alias – Il Manifesto, March 18th, 2023

Captivating Cage from Agnese Toniutti –
Almost all new-music pianists with a predilection for extended and experimental techniques eventually must reckon with John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes. As it happens, most of this contemporary classic’s numerous recorded versions are excellent, although the fact that no two prepared pianos sound exactly alike makes it difficult to favor one interpretation over another.
Certainly there’s much to admire in the Italian pianist Agnese Toniutti’s centered rhythm, rich palette of dynamic nuances, and her sensitive textural delineation. For example, the bass note strokes in Sonata No. 3 sound more like distant drum beats here, rather than the usual hitting a garbage can lid, effectively anchoring the gentle right-hand flourishes.
The First Interlude’s relaxed lilt contrasts with slightly more propulsive performances such as those of Julie Steinberg (Music and Arts) and Boris Berman (Naxos). Sonata No. 5’s swaying mallet percussion sonorities stand at opposite ends from Margaret Leng Tan’s ferocity and biting overtones, although the imposing brightness of Tan’s piano renders the barcarolle-like No. 12 more majestically than in Toniutti’s softer-grained rendition. It’s also interesting to contrast the shapely melodic droplets Toniutti creates in the “Gemini” combined Sonatas 14 and 15 with Maro Ajemian’s slower and starker interpretation from her world-premiere recording of the cycle.
While the engineering does justice to Toniutti’s nuanced dyanmics, I prefer the warmer resonance and crystalline clarity of the John Tilbury and Yuji Takahashi reference versions. Still, Toniutti unquestionably conveys the music’s roots in dance, as well as Cage’s subtle humor. Her intelligent, well-written booklet notes discuss both the music and the process of getting it ready for performance. Artistic Quality 9
Jed Distler, Classics, April 3rd, 2023

Agnese Toniutti’s New Music Vision – This is the most recent recording by Italian pianist Agnese Toniutti. (her third release by my research). It is also the most recent recording of John Cage’s masterful Sonatas and Interludes (1946-8) for prepared piano, a defining work for that unusual instrument. It has been recorded at least 30 times but is rather rarely heard in live performance. […]
Toniutti, a graduate of The Conservatory of Venice, seems to be as much a researcher and activist as she is a widely skilled pianist. While doubtless schooled in the commonly played repertoire for her instrument, she favors new music and music undeservedly neglected in her performances and recordings as well as the commissioning of new works and finding yet unplayed that strike her fancy.
The Sonatas and Interludes, now some 80 years old doesn’t really qualify as “new music” per se nor can it really be called neglected having been recorded 30+ times. In the context of this release this cycle of pieces seems to function much as a new recording of the Goldberg Variations or the late Beethoven Sonatas might function to introduce the skills of a musician whose trajectory was aimed at the conventional recital hall circuit. Toniutti clearly has other plans.
I won’t attempt to compare this most recent interpretation to the other available recordings. I believe this recording does much to validate the music as an essential work in the western canon of art music and to display the estimable understanding and widely skilled competence of the performer whose work is and will continue to embrace new music and advocate for that music to earn an esteemed place in the minds and hearts of listeners and other performers.
This is a very enjoyable recording whether it is to be a collector’s only recording of this music or one that stands most favorably in comparison to previous recordings. If this is to be your first recording of this work or if you simply want to hear another interpretation, you will not be disappointed. This is a wonderful performance.
Pianist Agnese Toniutti previously released a very forward looking recording on Neuma Records. The 2021 release pictured below is a collection of much more recent music. I listened numerous times and didn’t feel I “got it” well enough to say something reasonably intelligent (if not insightful) until this second release. And while I may not fully understand these “subtle matters” I now have a better context.
This collection which I had yet to review represents Toniutti’s understanding and appreciation as well as her apparent mission to expand the experimental repertoire for piano. Here is a fascinating set of composers, each with a unique view of her instrument. Just listen, trust this artist. You’ll be glad you did.
Keep your eyes and ears open for Agnese Toniutti, an advocate for and a master of the avant garde. And to Ms. Toniutti, I greet you at the beginning of a great career.
Allan J.Cronin, New Music Buff, April 14th, 2023

Agnese Toniutti, a performer of relaxed radicalism, in Sonatas & Interludes (Neuma Records),  decides to treat once again the very famous and highly performed series of 16 Sonatas (in one short movement) and 4 Interludes written by John Cage in 1946-’48. She treats it, in fact. As music conceived not for a prepared piano but for another instrument, for a piano that precisely because it is prepared (screws, nails, bolts, rubbers between the strings) becomes another instrument. That is why this interpretation by Toniutti is sensational. We are listening to a Martian instrument; the technologization of the old piano is extreme and detected. Then there is the anti-solemn attitude of this performer who manages to bring to mind the amiability of Cage in the midst of games (also paradoxically evocative of the Baroque) that seem to take place among laboratory machines and not in front of the most matronly and bourgeois of keyboard instruments. Toniutti’s relaxed and never austere radicalism is new music without problems, entirely enjoyable and exchangeable.
Mario Gamba, Alias – Il Manifesto, April 22nd, 2023

#101.1 Friday Night Free-Form – Santa Fe Public Radio (California, US)
curated by Marina La Palma
Sonata II, Third Interlude
20 pm, February 24th, 2023

#90.1 WRUV FM Brulington (Vermont, US) – Second Interlude
10.05 am, February
28th, 2023

#90.1 WRUV FM Brulington (Vermont, US) – Sonata I
10.28 am, March
14th, 2023

#Radio Onde Furlane (Udine, IT)  Ator ator, interview with Paolo Cantarutti (Furlan/ITA)
March 15th, 2023 Podcast here
Sonatas  1, 5, 18

#Martian Gardens (Massachusset, US)  Episode 1143, curated by Max Shea
March 26th, 2023 Podcast here
Sonatas  I, II, III, IV

# RAI Radio 3 – Battiti (National Radio, Italy)  Sonate, curated by Pino Saulo
April 4th, 2023 Podcast here
Sonatas  I, First Interlude, Sonata V