Visual images sring into the mind readily when listening to the music of Morton Feldman, more so than many other contermporary composers. Each work seems related to it's own artistic medium. This work, which would seem on the face of it to share some of the sound world of Feldman's String Quartets, is in reality a much different piece of work, and a transcendently lovely one at that.
While many of Feldman's late works have an mobile like quality, or a crystalline presence, this work is more of a watercolor. The means of the work are quite simple - like Piano and String Quartet, the quartet plays shimmering clusters of tone, which almost imperceptably shift shape as you listen, while the solo violin plays contrasting material made up of mostly small note cells, some only two or three notes long, some just a sustained harmonic. The result is transparent, akin to the black and white paint and drip images of Robert Motherwell or the calligraphic simplicity of Zen ink painting. It can be a difficult world to enter for the uninitiated. Very little seems to happen in this piece, and it lasts for almost two hours, (rather short actually in the time scale of Feldman's late work). But underneath the surface symmetry is a host of subtle details that make for mesmerizing listening for those who can submerge themselves in Feldman's unique environment.
Christina Fong and the Rangzen Quartet play this music beautifully, up there with the Kronos, Ives and Flux Quartets. Late Feldman is notoriously difficult, even though the sound is pristine and serene. Feldman writes in all of the variations in rhythmic detail directly into the piece. This, plus the inordinate legnth makes any late Feldman piece an edurance test for the performer. And yet, on this disc, you are only aware of the calmness of the surface. This is quite an achievement in concert, and really amazing in the sterile environment of a modern recording studio. Kudos to all involved.
Perhaps my only complaint is the CD packaging. OrgreOgress is an important indepedent label, but as an independent it is working on a shoestring. I understand that. But the flimsey packaging leaves alot to be desired. Rather than using a jewel box or even a paper cover with a plastic insert, this CD comes with a paper cover and two CDs inside secured by only two attachments which are glued to the paper cover. I am quite afraid that either the CDs will suffer damage, or that I will loose one or both, since they don't seem really well secured. This is a fairly trivial point, and if you choose not to get this disc merely on the lack of profesional packaging, well then, you probably shouldn't be listening to Feldman at all. Stick to Britanny Spears! But it's worth mentioning anyway as a warning and perhaps a gentle hint to the OgreOgress people. Love your product, might love it better with a little better packaging.
That being said, I'll spring for jewel boxed to save these discs from harm. The music is so lovely, it's the least I can do. This is an important release from a company that is at the forfront of charting the music of the New York School. Thanks for this.