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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Morton Feldman - Patterns in a Chromatic Field [MDG Scene - 2016]

I think it’s fair to say that Morton Feldman stands as one of my favourite modern classic/minimalist composer, as his mostly pattern based compositions managed to really capture haunting moodiness, angular atmospherics, felt emotionality, & creativity . Here we have a 2016 release of one of his pieces from the early 1980’s, and really it works as a great snap-shot of the scope of his work.

Patterns in a Chromatic Field is from 1981, and it was composed for two instruments- either piano & cello, or piano & violoncello. The score for the piece runs around 50 plus pages, with a playing time of between seventy & ninety minutes- depending on who is playing it.  This version has a running time of 76.21, and brings together Christian Giger on Violoncello & Steffen Schleier on Piano- it was recorded in early 2014

The piece is often quite active, varied & shifting compared with the slower more consider compositions Feldman is most known & celebrated for, though that’s not to say there are not slower more drowsy moments too. Like most of Feldman’s work this is once again based around patterns- from either the Violoncello or the piano, or both together.  The track opens  with a  surprisingly rapid mixture of angular/ rhythmic sawing violoncello work and stabbing/ jerking piano notation- this rather brings to mind one of Feldman’s more pacey yet angular pieces  For John Cage, but with the urgency/ speed cranked-up slightly. This focused urgency doesn’t stay for long and fairly soon the pair effortlessly  shifts into another pattern.  As the track progresses the pair move through a whole host of patterns:  moving from eerier ‘n’ slurred piano pitter patters & moody violoncello simmers. Onto to string picks & jaunting yet haunting piano runs, through to low-end piano runs & sawing violoncello patterns, onto creepy ‘n’ tumbling piano patterns that brood on a angular surface of  sinister violoncello simmer, and beyond.  These patterns  shift from one to next every few minutes or so, but sometimes a single pattern will stay in place as long as five minutes- this darting & shifting structure in both pace & pattern really makes for varied & often unpredictable ride.

The last version I reviewed of this piece was from 2006, and it brought together pianist John Tilbury with cellist Deirdre Copper- that version had a run time of one hour & twenty seven minutes. So as you’d expect this new recording does feel a little more pacey, though not to much so.  Both Giger & Schleier play the piece very well, and I particularly enjoy the feeling of taut precision that Schleier brings to the more rapid moments. On the whole it’s another very worthy version of this piece, with both players managing to add their own sonic identity to the whole thing.

In summing this release is another great addition to the growing bank of recordings of Mr  Feldman’s work. Also this make for a great entry point to the uninitiated as it does cover a lot of ground, and is always inventive, and rewarding in it’s unfold.

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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