Morton Feldman - Violin And Piano [MDG Scene - 2012]Here’s a two disc CD set that collections together a good selection of pieces for Piano & Violin composed by the master of sparse, pattern based, yet often highly atmospheric minimalistic/modern classical music Morton Feldman. The collection takes in both shorter works (between one & five minutes), mid-length (eleven to fifteen), and longer (seventy plus minutes) works.
The set comes in a bulky double jewel case- this features a twenty eight page booklet, which features German & English text- discussing the pieces on offer here, and bios of the two players here. In all the collection takes in ten tracks- nine on disc one, and one lengthy track on disc two.
The two players here are Steffen Schleiermacher- this respected German pianist has played more than a few Feldman compositions, with some of these appearing on the excellent three Vol’s of The Late Piano Works( also on MDG Scene). And Andreas Seidel- a respected German Violinist, who since 1993 has been part of Leipzig String Quartet and Ensemble Avantgarde.
The first disc opens with "Spring Of Chosroes"- this was composed in 1977, and is the longest track on disc one, coming in at 15.41. It starts off sprightly-yet-angular built around rapid to jagged string picks ‘n’ wails, blends of mid range wondering moodiness, and high pitched darts from the piano. As the track progresses the piece moves between lulling melancholic drifts of piano notation ebbed with slowed violin sour-ness, and sudden darting angular-ness. Later on we have "For Aaron Copland", composed in 1981- this piece is built around a slowed see-sawing pattern of haunted yet angularly harmonic violin playing- it feels both deeply sad yet strangely heroic. This disc ends on "Piece For Four Pianos"- this work is from 1957. And it finds Schleiermacher aptly & skilfully recreating the jarring/stop-start layers of this tracks just under twelve minutes runtime. As Feldman’s composition hints at the beginnings of melodic unfold & sudden rhythmic flourishers- to create a work that is both awkward yet compelling.
The whole of the second disc is taken up by "For John Cage"- this work is from 1982, and this version of it comes in at 76.21 mark. The track is a wonderful blend of angular-ness & urgent melancholic- it’s built around a fairly constant selection violin & piano patterns. These are fed out in a sliding scale of fair rapid-ness, and sudden lull darts. This has always been one of my favourite (mid-length) longer works from Feldman, as it perfectly blends the taut angular with sad beauty. I was lucky enough to see it performed live a few years back in one of the London Colleges, and it was truly spell-binding. The most known recorded playing of this work is the 1999 hat[now]ART release featuring Dutch violinist Josje Ter Haar & pianist John Snijders. Comparing that version with the one at hand, I’d say this is equally rewarding as both players offer up the perfect blend of sourness & sadness.
So all told this is a very nice two disc set- I wouldn’t say it’s for Feldman newbies, as the first discs works are a little less approachable/ easy- but certainly if you already have some grounding in Feldman’s work this is well worth hunting down. Roger Batty