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Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987)
Trio (1980) [76:04]
Ives Ensemble
rec. 1996, Sandesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk
HAT[NOW]ART 155 [76:04]

This is a reissue of a recording made in 1996 and released the following year. The typography of that earlier disc, hat ART CD 6195, was rather more stark and insistent than this one, and took up the whole cover with its detailing of the three players from the Ives Ensemble, Josje Ter Haar, Job Ter Haar and John Snijders. Thirty years have wrought few colour changes – this label sticks to its Stendhalian red and black – but the impression has softened. Fortunately, the performance enshrined within is equally impressive.

If one listens to it alongside that of, say, the ensemble of Marc Sabat (violin), Rohan de Saram (cello) and Aki Takahashi (piano) on Mode 216, one will immediately detect that the concept of Feldmanian time is very different. Where the Mode trio is capable of unruffled horizontality, there is a strong sense of forward motion in the Ives reading; in Feldman’s case one is tempted to call time relative, but the fact of the matter is that the Ives team take 76 minutes and the Mode run to 105 and thus to another CD.

The effect is almost wholly dissimilar as the Ives performance evinces an active sense of dissolution, the rigorous tempi allowing the Trio to reassign and realign its fragmentary material, and the refractive silences encountered emerge all the more strongly because of the relatively athletic tempo relationships chosen. Feldman’s mosaic-like structure is composed of fragmentary elements that yield shape in time as a consequence of being transmuted and translated in a non-linear and non-traditional way. Consumed by the idea of change, but a change predicated on dissonance, the work fares well whether elongated beyond its already long length, as in the Mode recording, or subjected to a more dramatic, juxtaposed intensity, as here.

Marc-André Hamelin’s very recent recording of For Bunita Marcus (review) shows that questions of latitude in Feldman are not always as important as matters of verticality. One can admire a variety of approaches. The members of the Ives Ensemble give the listener a splendidly recorded and annotated recording – the notes are courtesy of Art Lange – that continues to impress.

Jonathan Woolf



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