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C. Fong & P. Hersey - Complete Violin|Viola and Piano Works of Morton Fe [OgreOgress Production - 2003]

This collection brings together the complete violin/Viola and piano works of one of the great and most dramatic minimalist/modern classical composers of the 20th century, Morton Feldman. The set consists of two discs and 128 minutes worth of music that covers work from between 1945 to 1984.

For those unfamiliar with Feldman’s work- it’s often slow, quiet music that’s about steadily evolving asymmetric patterns. He deals in angular notation as well as moving and deeply sad harmonic dwells and patterns. He’s known most for his longer and massive, yet very slowly moving pieces that can last up to 6 hours. This collection features only one of his longer works “For John Cage” from 1982 which finds the hypnotic, angular yet haunting interlocking and interplayed patterns of a violin and piano for just under 70 spell binding minutes.

Most of he tracks here are relatively short( by Feldman standards) and  run between just under the two minute mark to just over the thirteen minute mark a picec. The first disc runs in chronological order starting with a piece from 1945 entitled “Sonata I allegro” which finds Feldman's composition in almost jaunting and jolly mood with rapid and upbeat piano patterns moving against almost jigging violin runs; as the collection progresses the tracks become more spaced-out, quiet, sombrely beautiful and off-kilter with their mixture of angular and moving or haunting notation. 

Playing on all of the 11 tracks is Michigan based violin and  Viola player  Christina Fong- who in the past has tackled the works of Cage, Stravinsky, Nyman, Glass and beyond - so she very verse in complex, sometimes difficult yet enchanting modern classical compositions. And pianist Paul Hersey who has covered the works of Alan Hovhaness and Robert Shechtman. The pair mangers to be jaunting, tight and precisely angular when needed, yet also moving, melancholic and hypnotic when needed.

The set also features two never recorded Feldman pieces- an early 1945 violin and piano piece, and a later 1984 violin piece- both of these are relatively short, but should along with quality of playing here attract those who already have many of these picecs on other collections. The only thing that slightly lets down the release is the flimsy cardboard folder that the two discs come-in, it just looks rather cheap and almost promo like in it’s packaging with liner-notes talking briefly about Feldman’s history linked in with each of the pieces on offer here.

So a very worthwhile collection of Feldman pieces that will appeal to both those who are already familiar with the great man's work, and those who have yet to investigate it. It’s just a pity the packaging lets the side down a little bit, but this is a minor quibble when your met with such angular, felt and timeless modern classical music.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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