"Bang on a Can: 25 Years" at Alice Tully Hall on April 28, 2012.

Delighting audiences all over the world ... Bang On a Can All Stars. Photo: Stephanie Berger

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

BANG ON A CAN - John Cage, Centenary Celebration
Sydney Opera House Studio, November 3

Whistles and cheers greeted John Cage's 4' 33'' and the six members of New York's Bang on a Can All-Stars smiled modestly. This opening piece was, after all, the last work in the concert they would end without a sweat.

Cage's intention was serious when the work was first performed by pianist David Tudor 60 years ago. He contended there was no such thing as silence and wanted audiences to use the reverent frame of attention given to concert pieces to hear sounds around us. In this performance we heard noisy air conditioning, someone belatedly switching off a mobile phone (though Cage wouldn't have minded an intrusion) and the odd shuffle and cough.

All Star ... Julia Wolfe.

All Star ... Julia Wolfe. Photo: Peter Serling

Today the piece is heard with knowing tongue-in-cheek indulgence rather than jeers, though the sounds of Cage's ''silence'' remain elusive.

The remainder of the program comprised open, gloriously riotous works, all performed with intensely engaged and energised vividness. Bang on a Can play with a refreshingly romantic involvement bringing a sense of surge and sweep to modern sounds that is far removed from the coolness and remoteness sometimes attributed to modernism.

Ridgeway, by the Australian-born, Netherlands-based Kate Moore, was a fascinating exercise in micro- and macro- rhythm, its small sections animated by repeated pulsations moving in and out of phase. These chunks of varying intensity threw attention onto a larger scale rhythm.

The Dutch composer Louis Andriessen's Workers Union, for any loud-sounding group of instruments, directs the players to play a fanatical rhythmic unison with freedom of pitch, each playing as though they are soloists. Bang on a Can played it as though their life depended on it.

For Terry Riley's In C they were joined by Sydney's Ensemble Offspring and extended its fragments into an epic and wondrous improvisation of more than an hour, surging and ebbing and ending in F or G, which is about as far from C as the piece allows.