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Morton Feldman - The Viola in my Life
Marek Konstantynowicz (viola)
Norwegian Radio Orchestra & Cikada Ensemble, Christian Eggen
Feldman wrote all four of The Viola in My Life pieces in the early 1970s for American viola player Karen Phillips: "[It] was begun in Honolulu in July 1970 and consists of individual compositions utilizing various instrumental combinations (small and large) with viola. Unlike most of my music, the complete cycle is conventionally notated as regards pitches and tempi. I needed the exact time proportion underlying the gradual and slight crescendo characteristic of all the muted sounds the viola plays. It was this aspect that determined the rhythmic sequence of events.” Scored for viola with flute, violin, cello, percussion and piano, the first part is dedicated to the Pierrot Players who premiered it under Peter Maxwell Davies in London in 1970. The last was commissioned by the Venice Biennale for its 1971 Festival, and is an orchestral 'translation' of material used in the three chamber pieces preceding it. “My intention was to think of melody and motivic fragments somewhat the way Robert Rauchenberg uses photographs in his painting and superimpose this on a static sound world more characteristic of my music."
Polish viola player Marek Konstantynowicz and his colleagues in the Cikada Ensemble, one of Europe’s leading contemporary music groups, perform The Viola in My Life by American composer Morton Feldman (1926-87). A four-part cycle characterized by soft dynamics, stillness and melodic fragments, it climaxes in a movement for viola and orchestra, here the Norwegian Radio Orchestra with conductor Christian Eggen.
“Anyone wanting an introduction to Morton Feldman's ravishing sound world could do worse than sample this ECM album before gingerly proceeding to tougher fare.
The Viola in my Life, Feldman's nostalgic cycle portraying the intimate web of associations he had with the instrument, is far from hardcore.
The four parts of the cycle add up to a 40-minute listen and Feldman doesn't reach for such alienated extremes. The Cikada Ensemble and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra are expert, but it's a shame violist Marek Konstantynowicz tends towards the expressive hard-sell, overplaying gestures that Karen Phillips on Feldman's own recording (recently reissued on New World Records) keeps at an objective distance.
Paying full price for a 40-minute CD might make some smart. If so, the irony of a too-short Feldman CD won't be lost on others.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Feldman: The Viola in My Life
Karen Phillips (viola), Anahid Ajemian, Matthew Raimondi (violins), Seymour Barab (cello), David Tudor, Paul Jacobs, Yuji Takahashi (pianos), Eberhard Blum, Paula Robison (flute), Arthur Bloom (clarinet), Arnold Fromme (trombone), Jan Williams, Richard Fitz, Raymond DesRoches (percussion), Morton Feldman (piano)
The music on this recording (reissued from CRI CD 620) illustrates the essential integrity of the work of Morton Feldman (1926-1987) and one of its fundamental strengths-its continuously unfolding unanimity of purpose. There are few composers of his generation whose first and last published work (in Feldman's case Journey to the End of Night of 1949 and Piano and String Quartet of 1986) span youth and final years with such a concentrated viewpoint.
There are, however, landmarks in the music of Feldman that are largely technical and notational. There are the graphic pieces, the first from 1950 and the last from 1964, in which some parameter of composition is not specified (often pitch). There are the "free duration pieces," both solo and ensemble, in which there is instruction either for sections of the piece or for its entirety. False Relationships and the Extended Ending (1968) is a late example of this kind, although Why Patterns? (1978) is a variant of the principle. There are also the conventionally notated works in his oeuvre, one of which is The Viola in My Life (1970).
It may be that Feldman's music will always strike a certain kind of listener as idiosyncratic-a denial of the time-honored ways in which music articulates itself. I think that Feldman was deeply offended by this response, by this notion that his music was singular because it was, as some might say, "missing something." Though it is true that his values of graduation can be exceedingly fine, when one enters this scale and comprehends it, something truly new and wonderful opens up in the art of music-a world in which the relative and the absolute become engaged with themselves.
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.
Christoph Desjardins (viola)
Collegium Novum Zurich, Basler Madrigalisten, Jonathan Nott
Usually despatched in 4 - 5 working days.