John Cage’s “Europa 5” premiered in 1991, one year after his
“Europa 4,” and it was written in direct response to the prior
work. The recording I heard from the MODE label was that of
a dress rehearsal, done in preparation for a performance given
on April 12, 1991, in New York City.
As with his other “Europa” works, this 60-minute piece isn’t
“composed” in the standard sense, but consists of a pastiche
of various elements. The featured performers were
soprano Martha Herr, tenor Gary Burgess (1938-2014), and
pianist Yvar Mikhashoff (1941-1993). They were joined by
percussionist January Williams operating the 78-rpm Victrola,
and Don Metz operating the “Truckera” tape. This performance
differed from others in that the operatic transcriptions weren’t
composed by Franz Liszt for piano, but instead were written
by Mikhashoff, who did a fine job.
Once again, Cage (1912-1992) indicated specific times and
designations of entrances by the various performers, along
with certain other parameters. The other options were
otherwise left to their discretion, a practice which was quite
typical of this composer. Cage was present during this
performance, which I suppose gives this recording a patina
of authenticity, even in the absence of the visual element.
It’s a shame not to see these works performed, as they are
best heard “in the flesh,” allowing us to experience
their full impact.
I had many of the same reactions to this piece as I had
to “Europa 3” and “Europa 4.” Kudos to the people at MODE
for releasing these recordings.