Adam Tendler, piano

Saturday, July 4, 6 pm


Sonatas and Interludes (1946-48)
John Cage (1912-1992)
I • II • III • IV
First Interlude
Second Interlude
Third Interlude
IX • X • XI • XII
Fourth Interlude
XIV and XV ‘Gemini’
After the Work by Richard Lippold

4’33” (1952)


Piano Pieces
Henry Cowell (1897-1965)

Anger Dance

Dynamic Motion

(Five Encores to “Dynamic Motion”)
What’s This
Amiable Conversation
Time Table

Piece for Piano with Strings

The Sword of Oblivion

The Fairy Bells


The Fairy Answer


Sunday, July 5, 4 pm
Fred Hand, guitar; Paula Robison, flute
Songs Without Words: Bar-Illan

Italian serenades and love songs; American “songs of the spirit”; Sephardic songs; and the world premiere of a composition by Frederic Hand, commissioned by 
Maverick Concerts to celebrate the centenary and supported
by a gift from Willetta Warberg

next week

Saturday, July 11, 8 pm
Perry Beekman, guitar and vocals,
with Lou Pappas, bass, and Peter Tomlinson, piano
The Harold Arlen Songbook

Sunday, July 12, 4 pm
Cypress Quartet

Music of Beethoven, Dvořák, and
Shokan composer George Tsontakis



Program Notes © 2015 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


Adam Tendler has been called “an exuberantly expressive pianist” who “vividly displayed his enthusiasm for every phrase” by The Los Angeles Times, an “outstanding...maverick pianist” by The New Yorker, a “modern-music evangelist” by Time Out New York, and an “intrepid pianist” who “has managed to get behind and underneath the notes, living inside the music and making poetic sense of it all” by The Baltimore Sun.

Nominated for the 2012 American Pianists Association Classical Fellowship Award, and a finalist for the 2013 American Prize, Mr. Tendler first made national headlines with America 88x50, a completely independent recital tour that brought free concerts of modern American music to underserved communities in all fifty states. He has gone on to perform in some of the country’s most distinguished venues, directing modern music initiatives across the country and serving as an announcer and new music liaison for NPR and Pacifica stations nationwide.

Mr. Tendler’s memorized performances of John Cage’s complete Sonatas and Interludes include a sold-out concert at The Rubin Museum in New York City, an appearance with the John Cage Trust at Bard College’s Fisher Center, and a featured solo recital in the Cage100 festival at Symphony Space on Cage’s hundredth birthday, listed by New York Magazine as one of the Top 10 Classical Music Events of 2012.

He has spoken and performed at Columbia University, Princeton University, NYU, Kenyon College, Boston Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, Portland State University, University of Nebraska, University of Alaska and Rice University, among others. An outspoken LGBTQ advocate, he was an election-season keynote speaker for the Human Rights Campaign, and he has regularly performed for clients at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center in New York.

He maintains the blog The Dissonant States and recently published the memoir, 88x50, about the year he spent performing solo recitals in all fifty states. The book was a 2014 Kirkus Indie Book of the Month and Lambda Literary Award Nominee.

Recognized as a leading interpreter of modern American music, Tendler is developing an album of music by Robert Palmer (1915-2010), whose sonatas he has begun editing and preparing for the E.C. Schirmer publishing house. He has also recorded the premiere release of Edward T. Cone’s 21 Little Preludes for piano. He lives in New York City and serves on the faculty of the Third Street Music School Settlement.



John Cage was strongly influenced by abstract expressionism, by Zen philosophy, and by the ambient sounds of the world around him. He believed that everything we hear is music. Cage is considered the inventor of indeterminacy, in which elements of the music (such as the order of movements, the duration of notes, or even the pitches) are not specified by the composer, but are decided by random events such as the performers’ choices, or the
throw of I Ching coins. His impact on contemporary music is immeasurable.

Cage started studying Indian philosophy and music in the mid-1940s. In the Indian tradition, music is composed and performed not as a form of self-expression, but in order to quiet the mind and make the listener more susceptible to divine influences. As the basis for Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, Cage used the Indian concept of eight “permanent emotions:” four white (humor, wonder, erotic, and heroic) and four black (anger, fear, disgust, and sorrow), along with a ninth, tranquility.




Sonatas and Interludes is a set of short pieces, mostly in the AABB form. The most prominent feature of these works is their rhythmic complexity, with varying units of measurement (7 bars, 7¾ bars, 8½ bars, etc.) and different rhythmic proportions. Although he did not give specific indications of the inspiration for each Sonata, he did say that “pieces with bell-like sounds suggest Europe and others with a drum-like resonance suggest the East.” It takes two or three hours to prepare a piano to Cage’s specifications, using nuts, bolts, pieces of plastic and rubber, and an eraser. Some of the preparations maintain the pitch of the note but change its character, while others take away the pitch entirely, making that note metallic, rattling, or drum-like. Mr. Tendler plays the entire set of Sonatas and Interludes from memory.

One evening in August 1952, the Maverick Concert Hall was the scene of a revolutionary moment in musical history. Here in the woods, the young pianist David Tudor performed the premiere of John Cage’s most famous—and most infamous—work, 4’33” (Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds). Although the work has often been called the “silent” piece, Cage wanted to show that a lack of notes was not the same thing as silence. The pianist read the score, turned pages, and opened and closed the piano lid, but never touched a single key.

Cage later wrote: “I went into an anechoic chamber [a room in which all echoes are eliminated by absorbent walls], not expecting in that silent room to hear two sounds: one high, my nervous system in operation, one low, my blood in circulation…. I found out that silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around. I devoted my music to it. My work became an exploration of non-intention.” Cage wanted his audience to listen to the sounds around them and even to the sounds inside their bodies, and to realize that what we hear is what we choose to hear. This pivotal performance at Maverick expanded the boundaries of music forever. For more information on this work, you can read the article in the Maverick program.

In 1924, the New York Tribune described Henry Cowell’s use of tone clusters with the headline, “Cowell displays new method of attacking piano.” Other critics suggested that his music was so loud that earmuffs ought to be distributed to concertgoers. Today he is acknowledged as an important pioneer in stylistic and performance techniques such as tone clusters (groups of adjacent notes on the keyboard played with the fist, palm, or forearm), polyrhythms (several rhythms playing against each other), and the string piano (playing directly on the strings of the piano rather than the keys).

Growing up in San Francisco, Cowell became as familiar with Chinese music as he was with the Irish and Appalachian music of his parents’ heritage. He studied with folklorist and ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger (husband of Ruth and father of Pete, Peggy, and Mike Seeger), who supported him in his desire to compose using the interval of the second (adjacent notes) rather than the third as the basis of harmony.

Cowell had serious relationships with both men and women. In 1936, he was arrested on a morals charge, and spent a year and a half in San Quentin State Prison. Two years after his release, he was granted a pardon so that he could work for the US Office of War Information. He collected music from various countries, then broadcast it to those countries along with messages promoting the Allied cause.

Henry Cowell and his wife Sidney—a renowned ethnomusicologist—lived in Woodstock from 1942 until his death in 1965. He achieved international acclaim, and his accomplishments were recognized by the most important musical minds of the time: Anton Webern conducted Cowell’s Sinfonietta in Vienna, and Arnold Schoenberg invited him to perform for his composition class in Berlin. Béla Bartók asked Cowell’s permission to use tone clusters in his music.

Anger Dance (1914) has its origins in a visit Cowell made to a doctor about a dislocated knee. The doctor recommended amputation, and wanted to perform it on the spot. Cowell stormed out on his crutches and wrote Anger Dance to express his outrage. The Sword of Oblivion (ca. 1920-1922) is probably the earliest piece written to be played directly on the piano strings. The manuscript lists seven ways to produce sound on a piano. The Fairy Answer (1929) is a duet between notes played on the keyboard and their eerie echo, played directly on the strings. Two-thirds of the way through Piece for Piano with Strings (1924), the score calls for strings to be plucked. It is an extremely difficult maneuver, and the work is sometimes played by two people.

Dynamic Motion (and its five “encores”) employs both secundal chords (harmonies based on the interval of a second) and tone clusters. What’s This is subtitled First Encore of Dynamic Motion. It uses small tone clusters in counterpoint with single notes. Amiable Conversation, the Second Encore of Dynamic Motion, is polytonal (in several keys at once). Cowell wrote that he heard a conversation between two Mandarin speakers in a Chinese laundry, and sought to imitate the tonal inflections of the spoken language. Advertisement is the Third Encore of Dynamic Motion. It uses dissonance and clusters to express the jarring advertising lights in Times Square. The performer is invited to repeat one section ad infinitum, to emphasize the absurdity of the scene. Antinomy, the Fourth Encore to Dynamic Motion, refers to the antinomies of Kant—elements that seem different but that can be shown to be the same. Cowell translates this into a theme and variations, with clusters building to an intense climax. Time Table is the Fifth Encore to Dynamic Motion and is played entirely on the keyboard. It was first published in 1982 in a collection of Cowell piano works, edited by none other than David Tudor, the performer of the 1952 premiere of John Cage’s 4’33” here at the Maverick.

The Fairy Bells fits in with Cowell’s interest in Celtic folklore, and is played directly on the piano strings. Cowell went on to arrange it as the third movement of a concerto for piano strings and chamber orchestra. Exultation is pentatonic, in the style of Irish folk music, and polyrhythmic—3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 meters appear together.


All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg.
It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy, publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at

Program Notes © 2015 by Miriam Villchur Berg