Did John Cage write a Second Piano Concerto?
In the introduction to his book Three Questions for Sixty-Five composers Bálint András Varga refers to "John Cage's Second Piano Concerto." When I quoted this in a recent post composer and blogger Daniel Wolf took Varga to task in a comment saying:
'Cage did not write a Second Piano Concerto. He wrote one Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra and a Concert for Piano and Orchestra (note that that's a Concert and not a Concerto), but no work of the title Varga mentions.'Now in response to Daniel's comment I have received the following spirited defence of Varga's appellation from his editor at the University of Rochester Press Ralph P. Locke:
'I am the founding (and current) editor of the series in which Balint Varga's book appeared (Eastman Studies in Music, published by University of Rochester Press). It was my decision, and I stand by it, to allow Balint to refer casually to Cage's "Second Piano Concerto" in the first of his three questions to the 65 composers. We could hardly change the wording of that question, which he had asked dozens of composers over the course of several decades. I figured he had used the phrase in order to quickly distinguish the Concert for Piano and Orchestra from the Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra. Nonetheless, Balint and I made sure that, in the book's index, the correct name of the work would be given in parentheses. The prepared-piano concerto has its own index entry, clearly distinguished from the "second" concerto (or non-concerto). Thus there is no problem "knowing precisely which work of Cage's was the point of reference" (to quote Daniel Wolf's objection).So did Beethoven write a Moonlight Sonata? Did Chopin write a Raindrop Prelude and John Cage a Second Piano Concerto? Well, one thing is certain, Concert for Piano and Orchestra is not a title given by the gods. But here is one that is.
A nickname or casual reference is not an error: it's simply another kind of usage that has developed (as Pliable notes in referring to a CD of "the Piano Concertos" of Cage [see image above]). Beethoven didn't write a Moonlight Sonata or Chopin a Raindrop Prelude. But musicians and concert programmers develop their own shorthand--however inauthentic or inaccurate--in order to make sure everybody knows which piece they have in mind when they're talking about it or planning on performing it.'
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