Your clickable banner could be here: details
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.


Editor: Marc Bridle


Webmaster: Len Mullenger





WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article



Seen and Heard International Concert Review


Morton Feldman: Why Patterns? (1978) & Gérard Grisey: Vortex Temporum (1994-96), The New York New Music Ensemble, Merkin Concert Hall, New York City, November 15, 2004 (BH)

The New York New Music Ensemble
Jayn Rosenfeld, flute
Jean Kopperud, clarinet
Linda Quan, violin
Christopher Finckel, cello
Daniel Druckman, percussion
Stephen Gosling, piano
Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor
Guest Artist: Lois Martin, viola


Sitting in three discrete pools of light spaced apart on the stage, Stephen Gosling, Jayn Rosenfeld and Daniel Druckman delicately began Morton Feldman’s meditation on patterns he perceived in an Anatolian rug. The separate spotlights were an appropriate metaphor for Feldman’s idea here: the three musicians’ written parts coordinate at the beginning, but then diverge, with each part notated differently, and only converging again near the end. As with much of Feldman, this was a rewarding and very, very quiet journey, with Mr. Gosling uncharacteristically muted (an imbalance that would be addressed later in the evening), Ms. Rosenfeld meeting the challenge of making an alto flute speak quietly, and each melding beautifully with Mr. Druckman’s shimmering glockenspiel tones. As with much of Feldman, one should be prepared for the static, the hush, the sense of hovering about, that feeling that something is about to happen. One does not listen to Feldman for ecstatic forward motion, dramatic chord changes, or brutal rhythms. His language is serenely personal and delicately shaded. I sometimes find it jarring to enter Feldman’s world from busy New York streets, but once you are seduced, as here, you almost want the experience to last even longer. Why Patterns? lasts for just a half-hour, but I could have listened for twice that.

For much of the evening after hearing Grisey’s extraordinary Vortex Temporum, my head felt distorted, as if my brain had been slowly tugged out of its normal shape. This is not your father’s contemporary music, nor that of any of your other relatives. In the first section, dedicated to Gérard Zinsstag, the composer explores a sinusoidal wave, whose origin is Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. A few sentences from the composer will probably help give the reader a (very general) idea of what is going on in this music, which the composer somewhat modestly describes as “perhaps only a history of the arpeggio in time and space – from the point of view of our ears.”

“The title indicates the beginning of the system of rotation, repeated arpeggios [from Daphnis et Chloe] and their metamorphosis in various transient passages. In addition to the initial introductory vibration formula taken directly from Daphnis and Chloe, “vortex” suggested to me harmonic writings focused around the four tones of the diminished seventh chord, a rotational chord par excellence. Treating each of these tones as leading ones, we obtain the possibility of multiple modulations. Of course, we are not talking here with the tonal system but rather with considerations of what might still be relevant and innovative in this system.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Gosling, had characterized the first movement’s uber-violent piano interlude as “crunchy,” and after hearing it, his understatement was amusing. He absolutely deserved the waves of adulation he received at the close of the evening. (After the concert was over, he received further cheers as he descended the stairs into the concert hall lobby.) Rather unexpectedly, the score asks the pianist to fairly leap from the top end of the piano to the bottom, hurling himself back and forth to negotiate the showers of notes. This is about as athletic a feat as we are likely to hear from a pianist. Mr. Gosling’s presumed accuracy in achieving Grisey’s effects meant watching him do exaggerated torso swings back and forth over the keyboard – movements that some pianists simply would not be able to do.

The second section’s dedicatee is Salvatore Sciarrino, and the movement uses the same material, but in “expanded time.” It is immediately perceived as slower, and indeed seems to draw out time into stretches that begin to play with one’s mind. In the work’s final section, a tribute to Helmut Lachenmann, the first fast section and the second slower one are combined -- the instruments bleed out tiny sound effects, such as scratches, semi-harmonics, tiny gestures, many of which use adjusted pitches, very slightly microtonal in effect. There are two ghostly interludes that come between the three movements, and as I watched Lois Martin carefully dragging her bow across her viola, producing just the barest whisper, and marveled at the composer’s showing us what exactly our ears are capable of discerning.

I’ve heard this piece just once before – the American premiere in 2003 – and this performance left me with a similar feeling of disorientation, albeit coupled with even greater admiration for the composer and the new territory he forged. This is a superb example of music that is so revolutionary, you can’t quite grasp what you are hearing, despite your mind continuously trying to plumb whatever files it can to come up with an answer. As one of the founders of the compositional movement called spectralism, Grisey’s priorities are unlike those of many other composers. Again, in the lobby following the performance, I felt slightly boggled, knowing Grisey’s mind had touched mine, but not exactly able to define exactly how.

The other outstanding members of the ensemble include Jean Kopperud, Linda Quan and Christopher Finckel, who should be strongly praised for their gutsy contributions to this extraordinary score. Jeffrey Milarsky, one of the most meticulous interpreters around, shaped this maniacally complex piece with elegance and aplomb. This is territory that few conductors would venture into, and Milarsky’s complete assurance, combined with the ferocious ability of the musicians, made Grisey’s masterwork spring to joyful, slightly mysterious life.

Bruce Hodges

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page






MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.