Morton Feldman – Suspended in Time

Late in his career Morton Feldman became fascinated with the extremes of duration. This 1987 work, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello comes from that period and clocks in at 75;13. It’s not his longest work, the 6-hour 2nd String Quartet holds that honor. But its length does make some demands — and has some effect — on the listener (at least this one).

The work is in a single movement, and Bridge presents it on disc with a single track. So the only way to really listen to the work is start at the beginning, and follow through to the end — just the way Feldman intended.

Texturally, the work is rather thin. Each instrument has a few notes they play, sometimes in conjunction with one or two others. These note clusters come and go in waves that aren’t precisely timed, but have an inherent rhythm to them, like very slow breathing.

The music forced me to listen to it on Feldman’s terms — not mine. There are no easily discernable motives, no recognizable sections or forms. The music simply… is. And once I became comfortable with that concept, I felt I could appreciate it. Like a mobile faintly stirred by a gentle breeze, the music seemed to slowly circle around itself, creating new patterns as different note clusters aligned. Ever changing, yet ever the same.

This music is very slow and very soft — two of the most demanding aspects of performance. To maintain the focus and control this work requires for over an hour is an amazing feat — and one that these soloists accomplish. I did have one quibble with the recording — it seemed a little soft around the edges. But perhaps that was deliberate. The softness of the instrumental sound is in keeping with the ambiguity of the music.

An excellent addition to Bridge Record’s survey of Morton Feldman’s music.

Morton Feldman, Volume 5: Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello
Aleck Karis, piano; Curtis Macomber, violin; Danielle Farina, viola; Christopher Finckel, cello
Bridge 9446

 

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