These recordings performed by pianist Philip Thomas reveal Wolff as a
composer fully exploring, in different ways, the continuum between music
which is highly fragmented, embracing extended silences—composed or
indeterminate—to that which is more progressive and seemingly driven,
albeit taking in disarming and unconventional routes.
“In all my performances of Wolff's music I aim for interpretations that
both interest and surprise me, allowing the notations to lead me to new
ways of playing and thinking about music, whilst at the same time trying
to lead the notations toward the unexpected.”
Philip Thomas (born 1972 in North Devon) specialises in performing new and experimental music, including both notated and improvised music. He places much emphasis on each concert being a unique event, designing imaginative programmes that provoke and suggest connections. He is particularly drawn to the experimental music of John Cage
, Morton Feldman
and Christian Wolff, and composers who broadly work within a post-Cageian aesthetic. In recent years he has been particularly associated with the music of Christian Wolff, giving the world premiere of his Small Preludes in 2009, the UK premiere of Long Piano (Peace March 11), having co-edited and contributed to the first major study of Wolff's music, Changing the System: the Music of Christian Wolff
, published by Ashgate Publications in 2010.
Christian Wolff was born in 1934 in Nice, France, to the German literary publishers Helen and Kurt Wolff, who had published works by Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, and Walter Benjamin. After relocating to the U.S. in 1941, they helped to found Pantheon Books with other European intellectuals who had fled Europe during the rise of fascism. The Wolffs published a series of notable English translations of European literature, mostly, as well as an edition of the I Ching
that came to greatly impress John Cage
after Wolff had given him a copy.
Wolff became an American citizen in 1946. When he was sixteen his piano teacher Grete Sultan sent him for lessons in composition to the new music composer John Cage
. Wolff soon became a close associate of Cage
and his artistic circle, which included the fellow composers Earle Brown and Morton Feldman
, the pianist David Tudor, and the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Cage
relates several anecdotes about Wolff in his one-minute Indeterminacy pieces