American Record Guide

On the cover of Eric Craven’s record of his seventh, eighth, and ninth piano sonatas it says that they are “realized and performed by” Mary Dullea. The notation is “non-prescriptive”. That is, he offers the performer with a large number of musical figures or “data” that the pianist then is allowed to string together in various ways. This method varies depending on just how many/what type of decisions the composer would like to allow the performer. Thus the degree of what Cage would call indeterminacy changes between pieces and between movements. Also, the musical vocabulary changes substantially over the course of a sonata. The seventh opens with very straightforward melodic language over largely consonant triadic harmony with even phrases and recognizable rhythms, but eventually shifts to quick, frenetic gestures that sound more like Cage. Dullea has obviously committed a lot of time to this project, and it shows in the quality of her performances. I don’t find the music particularly compelling, partly because it often doesn’t sound “non-prescriptive” at all. The novelty of indeterminacy doesn’t save the more straightforward sections from their rather unexceptional material and substance.

—George Adams