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This disc will shortly become available from Ludwigvanweb


Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987)
First Piano Sonata (to Bela Bartók) (1943) [5’51]. Preludio (1944) [2’28]. Self-Portrait (1945) [3’46]. Three Dances (1950) [6’56]. For Cynthia (195?) [0’41]. Two Pieces for Three Pianos (1966) [19’11 + 1516].
Debora Petrina (piano).
No rec. info. DDD
OgreOgress OO2003a [54’56]


This is, OgreOgress’ web-site tells us, the sixth in a series of discs featuring previously unrecorded works by well-known composers. The product design, it has to be said, leaves something to be desired. The notes (perfectly acceptable in themselves) are printed in white on a variety of eye-paining, headache-inducing colours. There is no catalogue number to be seen anywhere on the (flimsy cardboard) slipcase, nor on the disc itself. Only by going to OgreOgress’ website ( and finding the relevant listing does ‘OO2003a’ turn up, and even then it is not in the obvious place. Are they deliberately trying to make it hard to get hold of this disc?

As it happens, it is of much value. It is fascinating to meet the First Piano Sonata (track 1: there was to be no Second …), which dates from the close of the period of Feldman’s studies with Wallingford Riegger. Its dedication to Bartók is interesting, and the slow movement of Bartók’s own Sonata is given as the starting point. Feldman’s gestures seem to stand in opposition to each other (Feldman being averse to developing any idea in conventional ways). Silence plays a big part in the work’s argument, although there is a nicely agile section (c3’10-30). A sudden glissando makes an impact, like a spontaneous, yet brief, outburst. The calmer Preludio makes explicit reference to the Bach of the Two-Part inventions, itself putting the Self-Portrait into relief (the latter works to a positively impassioned climax based on a four-note descending motif).

The Three Dances was premièred in 1950 by pianist Edwin Hymovitz for Merle Marsicano’s dance performance. The first is almost as un-dancelike as you can get, in the traditional sense of the word. An eerie Cageian silence hangs over this (track 4). The spiky yet delicate second dance seems to refer to Schoenberg’s Op. 19 Piano Pieces, while the sudden (unannounced) introduction of percussion in to the third (including a hammer on a small anvil?), followed by tapping provides a hypnotic conclusion.

For Cynthia was written for Feldman’s first wife. It is small and unashamedly cute.

The concluding Pieces for Three Pianos are much larger statements, and here the composer has a chance to breathe. All three parts are played by Petrina. She aims not for a simulation of a live act, but rather to provide an alternative listening experience. The slow-moving, almost processional first piece (track 8). Two of the piano parts are written for chords to be held until they fade away; the third is precisely temporally notated. The end result is initially disorientating, but one slowly becomes dragged into the piece’s aesthetic. For the second piece, as one piano fades, another enters in an attempt at contiguity. In both pieces, time ceases to operate for the listener in a ‘normal’ way (in as much as time ever can!), and perception becomes ever heightened. There appears to be a high-pitched squeal towards the end of the piece on my review copy that sounds like a recording fault (it starts around 13’40).

Not to worry. Petrina herself plays with complete commitment. She holds an impressive CV, having studied at Padua, Ljubljana and Budapest (see and her performances, which are bound together by the utmost concentration, bear out her abilities. This is a fascinating document, invaluable for all students/followers of Feldman.

Colin Clarke



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