Morton Feldman – For John Cage

“For John Cage” is one of the seven musical portraits Morton Feldman composed for friends. And it’s the third issued by Bridge Records.

“For John Cage” doesn’t quote any of Cage’s music, but Feldman perfectly captures his aesthetic, I think. This 71-minute piece draws the listener in, and heightens their awareness of the ambient sounds — and silences — around them.

This has to be a difficult work to perform. The entire piece is played at piano or pianissimo. The piano (one stave only) and violin have equal weight. Often both instruments are playing the same motifs, but not exactly.

The piano’s half-pedal slightly smears its notes, while the violin’s are cleanly articulated. Rhythms are slightly mismatched. The precise notes of the piano grind against microtonal inflections of those same pitches on the violin.

All of these differences though are quite subtle. The soft volume throughout encourages attentive listening — and that’s when those differences become apparent.

Erik Carlson and Aleck Karis deliver a tremendous performance. It takes extraordinary control to play softly for so long. And to do so expressively even more so.

This music reveals something new with every listen. And the more carefully you listen, the greater the rewards.

Morton Feldman, Vol. 6
For John Cage
Erik Carlson, violin; Aleck Karis, piano
Bridge Records 9498

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