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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 - Two Pianos And Other Pieces, 1953-1969 [Another Timbre - 2018]

From May this year hereís a reissue of one of the more popular & sort after titles on UK modern classical/ improv/ modern composition label Another Timbre. Originally released back in 2015 Two Pianos And Other Pieces, 1953-1969 is a two CD collection of relatively short, often piano-focused works by modern classical/ minimalist composer Morton Feldman.

Between 1940 & 1987 Feldman composed a fairly large body of work which took in both solo piano works, chamber & orchestral works, as well as vocal & stage work. Heís most known for his considered, starkly moody, skeletal & often lengthy compositions that are built around shifting & recurring notation- with some of his more celebrated works come in the form For Philip Guston- a four, to four & half-hour piece for flute, piano/Celeste, and percussion. For John Cage Ė the seventy-two- eighty-minute work for violin & piano. And Rothko Chapel the haunting & ethereal 1971  suite for soprano, alto, mixed choir and instruments. Itís fair to say, more so than any other modern classical composer, Feldmanís work is either a love or hate thing- youíll either, like me, get deeply engrossed & hypnotized by Feldman ís very slow & stretched out compositions, or you just find them aimless & shape-less plods.

Even though this two-disc set focuses on in many of the  shorter runtime compositions by Feldman, with pieces  runtimes  between the three & seventeen minutes mark, all of the pieces still adhere to the very slowed, spaced-out, and often hauntingly sparse structure of  most  of the composers work. So if your coming into this release looking for an easy way into his body of work, yes this does give you fairly bite size selection of pieces, but they are still very considered & lulling compositions, that need both time & effort to fully appreciate.

The collection thirteen pieces- six on disc one, and seven on disc two- donít follow a strict chronologic order, though as  compilations go, the track sequencing is well enough thought-out. The set opens with the track "Two Pianos" Ė this was composed in 1957, and as its title suggests is for two pianists- the ten minute composition is both softly haunting & at the same jarring, as one player traces out a series of spaced forlorn patterns, while the other offers up sudden, controlled & often angular darts. As we move through the first disc we come to 1969ís "Between Categories"- this just over eleven & a half minute piece is for pianos, cellos, violins & chimes- it's slurred sonic map moves between bleak  & eerier tollings, stretched-out string tension, and brooding plodding-to- darkly tinkling piano notation.

On the second disc, we have tracks like 1963ís "De Kooning"- which is a nearing thirteen-minute excise in eerier mood-making, which blends of slow & lulling piano notation, creepily glowing cello & violin sparseness, very subtle horn embellishment, and sudden melancholic vibe like flutters. There's the spaced-out & gentle piano patterns of 1957 "Paino Three Hands"- where the extremely considered notation moves between creep, angular, and sad. Or 1968ís "False Relationships & The Extended Ending"- this nearing sixteen & a half minute track sees a relative large sonic pallet of three pianos, one cello, violin, chimes & trombone creating a skeletal sonic map of doomed unease, fleeting darts, and sad angularity.

Personally, when Iím in a Feldman mood, I more often than not reach for one of his longer hour plus, to a couple of hour works. But thereís no doubt he still had a talent for creating intriguing shorter works too. For this collection we get a great cast of talented players re-creating the pieces, with celebrated English pianist John Tilbury leading up the players- heís now really become one of the greatest interpreters of Feldmanís work, abiding each piece he tattles with great depth, emotion, and skill. If youíre a Feldman fan, and you donít have this- pick it up now, before it goes out of print again. And if your new to Feldman, this would work a good introduction- just enter into it with an open mind, and donít expect music thatís going to hook you in straight away.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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