Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987) 2 Pieces (for Danny Stern) [1:44]
Extensions 5 [4:21]
2 Instruments [13:26]
Wind (for Naomi Newman) [1:31]
Follow Thy Faire Sun [1:54]
Dance Suite (for Merle Marsicano) [21:22]
For Stockhausen, Cage, Stravinsky, and Mary Sprinson [0:33]
Barbara MONK FELDMAN (b.1953) Duo [12:49]
The Gentlest Chord [3:02]
Clear Edge [4:59]
Pour un Nuage Viole [24:33]
Karen Krummel (cello), Glenn Freeman (percussion), Paul Hersey (keyboards), Christina Fong (violin), Debora Petrina (piano/celesta), Paul Austin (French horn), Gwendolyn Faasen (voice), Alicia Eppinga (cello), Brian Craig (voice), Barbara Witham McCargar (voice)
rec.: Kretschmer Recital Hall of Aquinas College, Trinity United
Methodist Church of Grand Rapids, Gwendolyn Faasen Studio and Spirit
House, Prague State Opera Studio, Mexicains Sans Frontières, First
Baptist Church of Kalamazoo and OgreOgress Productions. Stereo DVD-A
Given the extreme durations of many of his works, Morton Feldman
seems like an appropriate candidate for new media formats offering
extended playing times. However, there is nothing on this disc
that exceeds half an hour, and as the recordings were made in
around seven locations and mostly with different performers,
this collection feels more like a compilation, albeit with relatively
logical repertoire choices.
The disc takes up two Feldman themes, his early work and the
music written by his widow after his death. With the exception
of the very earliest work, two pieces (for danny stern) everything
falls within a recognisably Feldman-esque aesthetic. There are
no great discoveries here, and the disc's appeal will probably
be limited to Feldman enthusiasts. There are enough of those
out there to make the project worthwhile.
The Morton Feldman works date from 1948 to 1972. It is difficult
to trace a career trajectory here. Instead, we have the serial,
or at least serial-inspired two pieces from 1948, two
songs from 1960 and 1962, and four instrumental pieces which
are much more typical of the minimalist aesthetic for which
he is known. These pieces have the same timeless quality as
his extended chamber compositions, with two instruments (1958)
and dance suite (1963) demonstrating that Feldman's music
is just as effective when presented in small doses as it is
when strung out to four or six hours.
The two songs are curiosities. The texts are by Pasternak and
Thomas Campion, and they both come in at under two minutes.
Listening to follow thy faire sunne (1962), the Campion
setting for male voice and chime, suggests a vocal quality to
Feldman's instrumental works. The individual, plaintive tones
of the singer are remarkably similar to the individual string
notes in his quartet and quintet writing. Rothko Chapel
is about the only vocal work by Feldman to have made a lasting
impression, but listening to these short songs, it seems a shame
that he did not spend more time writing for voice as it suits
his style well.
Barbara Monk Feldman was a pupil of Morton and latterly his
wife. Her music is very much in the spirit of his, perhaps a
little more pedantic in its use of stacked intervals and atmospheric
effects, but basically on the same meditative plane. Her works
are presented chronologically, and all date from after Morton's
death. If anything, there is a gradual move here away from Feldman's
aesthetic and towards that of John Cage. duo for piano and
percussion (1988) is the most Feldman-esque, while pour
un nuage violet (1998) for violin and cello, is more in
the spirit of Cage's string quartet works, the individual notes
more visceral and with less of that immutable, iconic quality.
The performances are generally good, although neither composer
makes any great demands on the singers or players. In pour
un nuage, the music occasionally goes into parallel octaves
or unisons, putting the players' intonation under harsh scrutiny.
The recorded sound quality is better in the instrumental works
than the vocal ones, which all sound slightly muffled.
Which raises the question – why issue this release on audio-only
DVD? The extended duration is certainly a benefit, but the audio
quality rarely seems superior to CD. There is no surround sound
and no visuals to speak of. If anything, the recording, and
indeed the whole series - this is the 16th in a run
of releases of obscure works from well-known American composers
- seems better suited to distribution by download, especially
as the box design is cursory at best.
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