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String Quartet

Zeavin, Martin, Gordon Hudson , Feldman Audio CD

Price: CDN$ 10.72 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. String Quartet - The Group For Contemporary Music

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Group for Contemporary Music

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all about letting go July 31 2006
By Sparky P. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This recording of Feldman's First (numbered) String Quartet came out initially in 1994 on the Koch label. This was out of print for quite a few years until Naxos picked it up and rereleased it in late 2005. This is quite different to the Second String Quartet (although if you insert this inbetween discs of either recording of SQII, it would fall into place quite well). Whereas SQII is a series of many pages of shuffled and rearranged recurring ideas that are strung together, SQI is a long stream of consciousness, a slowly evolving landscape. There are some later pages though in SQI that certainly foreshadow many types of elements in SQII (the repeated motives at the 70' mark to the end come to mind). I have always been used to Feldman's music, to a point that the late long works, such as "For Philip Guston," started to grow wonderfully on me and seem endlessly brief. As with just about everything in Feldman's oeuvre, you don't simply listen to it to be entertained and satisfied; you commit to it, you live it, like being with a very good friend or watching a baseball game, where time is not of the greatest importance (it's too bad that Feldman never saw "Seinfeld," that show about nothing, and yet about everything). There is ebb, flow. There are surprises, some startling (take, for example, the first instance of a very loud eight note cluster twenty minutes in, which will occur three more times in the next fifteen minutes in different lengths, then disappear, never to be heard again after that), some reminiscent (like the fast pizzicato figures about 55' in, which reminds this writer of the first of Webern's Op.5 Five Movements for String Quartet), some items that come around at periodic intervals, other items come but once, never again to be encountered. And yet for all its length, I have listened to it many, many times in the last five years that it now seems to whiz past me like a Webern Bagatelle, that's how much I have become used to it. To listen to this piece is simply a matter of letting go (could there be something Zen in there?), letting things just happen, accepting, absorbing, breathing. In a way, simply be.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feldman on the cusp of his late period July 1 2007
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Feldman felt he had created a masterpiece with his first string quartet, which gained the nickname "100 minutes" based on its first performance in NYC, May 4th, 1980, because it lasted well over 90 minutes. This recording from 1993 by the Group for Contemporary Music (originally released on Koch in 1994), isn't quite that long -- it's only 78'35 long! In February, 1981 the String Quartet was performed at the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, and Feldman later said that the audience was so full of tension that it was "like a lynch mob."

Throughout the 1970s Feldman had written many works for orchestra, including his outstanding "still life" concerto works (ie, "Cello and Orchestra," "Piano and Orchestra," "Violin and Orchestra, etc). These works grew longer toward the end, but it was the String Quartet that launched Feldman into his late period preoccupation with very long chamber works. (Thanks to Douglas Cohen for the very informative liner notes!)

The String Quartet of 1979 is full of variation, small to be sure, but in this sense transitional. The (in)famous second string quartet of 1983 represents the consolidation of Feldman's late "Turkish rug" period, marked by a reduction in variation to tiny changes on repeating patterns. This 1979 work has more in common with PATTERNS IN A CHROMATIC FIELD for cello and piano of 1981 (see my review) in its exploration of a wider range of possibilities, and more abrupt transitions, within the limited sonic terrain it occupies.

A second recording of the work was made by the Ives Ensemble in 2005, and released in 2007 by Hat Hut. It is just ever-so-slightly shorter than this original GCM recording, clocking in at 76'57. There is a big difference in sound, though -- the Ives Ensemble is much sharper, indicating close miking of each instrument. The GCM by contrast sounds softer, air-brushed, perhaps recorded with one overhead microphone. At this point I would say the Ives Ensemble recording is definitive.

It took me some time to warm up to the late Feldman, but I came around. I love the 1970s still life works (see my review of the CPO set with Zender conducting), but I have embraced the string quartets, and the VIOLIN AND STRING QUARTET as well (see my review of the hatHUT recording). There is a recording of the second String Quartet by the Ives Ensemble on hatHUT that is "only" 5 hours long, on 4 discs instead of the 5 discs it takes to hold the 6-hour recording by the Flux Quartet for Mode, that has not appeared on this site. It is superb, and available via Cadence Magazine.

See my FELDMAN: A LISTENER'S GUIDE list for more recommendations and reviews of the music of one of the finest late 20th century composers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four instruments do so much with so few notes June 9 2010
By J. GARRATT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I think I read somewhere that Morton Feldman's compositions were getting lengthier and lengthier towards the end of his life. I don't have the date of his death on hand, but I'm sure this string quartet from 1979 qualifies as one of those. 76 minutes, the back says.

And most of that time is used up stirring some sort of celestial-sized pot of sighing dissonance, intermittent silences, and a small dose of stabbing. Is this what happens when you get old? You hold the capability of creating a piece of music where four stringed instruments can conjure images of a planet barely moving in space?

Extraordinary. Don't bother if you are allergic to something discordant or minimal.
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