Play Feldman String Quartet Classical, Import, CD
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Written two years before his death in 1987, Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet is a shimmering, pristine musical event. Contrasting Aki Takahashi's widely-spaced piano arpeggios with Kronos Quartet's extended chords, Feldman allows lingering sounds from either the piano or the strings to haze over many of the piece's near-silences. Kronos plays their parts with tremulous fragility, often making pointedly clear the viola's musical valley between the leading violins and the trailing cello. By the time Feldman composed this piece, he was deeply committed to extended works--chamber pieces that could telescope motifs and worry their tonality so that it warbled between hauntingly atonal and familiarly tonal singing. This is a powerful, evening piece, one that can set an extravagantly crystalline musical mood. --Andrew Bartlett
Top Customer Reviews
The first time through I found myself gritting my teeth wanting more to happen. And it never did. And I was impatient and frustrated. The second time through I simply let it play in the background as I did something else. The third time through, having determined that it was not 'awful' and probably really quite good if I'd let it be, I decided to really listen through its entire length and see what I could hear. That's when I came to understand that Feldman's music repays close listening. There are very subtle happenings--phase changes, harmonic changes, minuscule 'events,'--and I came to really admire the concentration of the musicians involved--in this recording pianist Aki Takahashi and the Kronos Quartet. And then I recalled reading somewhere that the Kronos Quartet has given up playing the Second Quartet--that five hour span--because, as I remember it, they said they'd gotten 'too old.' I can understand that. This is, for all its minimal dynamics and slow tempo, enormously difficult music to play because of the intense concentration involved.Read more ›
Feldman is a minimalist in the most natural sense...like Mondrian or Rothko in painting, or Robert Creely in poetry, or Becket in Theater. Feldman's minimalism is based on limiting the means of composition and leaving space on his sonic canvas. (as opposed to Reich, Riley and Glass who limit musical means but then cover the page with their patterns. It's what a friend of mine calls energy minimalism.) In the case of Piano and String Quartet, the basic musical means are easily described. The quartet play delicately balanced chords, while the piano plays ethereal fillagrees...arpeggios and crystalline chords, all at very low volume levels (the piece never gets louder than piano). Each iteration of this material arises from silence and recedes back into the silence. It sounds profoundly natural, like waves of sound. The musical language is lush and haunting...neither tonal or atonal, but something that floats in between. (Another big difference between Feldman and the minimalist school is that Feldman's harmonic sense is more complex...and may have actually had some influence on later developments in minimalism, particularly on Reich's more chromatic music of the 80's onwards.)
The real art of this piece is in the details. Though the basic compositional form stays rather static throughout the piece, there is never a literal repeat. Each new statement of the material changes in small but, in the context, monumental ways.Read more ›
As far as the composition, I personally found this to be as strong a work as he wrote in his later years. And as for the performance: Kronos has never sounded better. This work requires stamina, focus, and coloration as opposed to dexterous virtuosity (of which they were certainly capable); Kronos does the job magnificently. Kudos to the recording engineers as well, who manage to emphasize the "sound." Aki Takahashi was one of three pianists of choice for Feldman during his lifetime, and I can hear why.
The performance is maximum length for one CD (79 & 1/2 minutes) so I suspect all parties involved wanted to see that the work was SLOW enough, but fit the format's constraints.
If I was to recommend an introductory recording to Feldman's music, I'd probably choose "Rothko Chapel" first. But if you really want to dive in...try this one.
In the notes for 1968's Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra, John Cage wrote about the purpose of music being "to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences." Feldman achieves this aim with exquisite grace and discipline.
My first listening was on a road trip, alone in my car on a cold day: my involvement with the piece completely immersed me to the point that I was jarred at the end by brake lights in front of me. I had no recollection of the past 50 miles or so, nor a clear memory of having gotten in the vehicle in the first place; what remained was merely a faint idea of my destination. In short, I was autopiloted by a dead composer and five exemplary musicians.
There are pieces with this level of emotional and intellectual density: Om Kalsoum's live recording of "Zekriat," for example, or Karajan's 1959 "Missa Solemnis"--withering, luminous masterpieces. However, Feldman is a singular wonder who gave so much to 20th century music. We find his apotheosis on this disc by Kronos and Takahashi.
Most recent customer reviews
"Rothko Chapel" (with "Why Patterns?" on New Albion) is sublimely beautiful. The very Beckettian "For Samuel Beckett" (I have the hatArt recording of... Read morePublished on May 3 2001 by Autonomeus
I enjoy this beautiful, mystical music. It is a Piano & String Quartet performed exquisitely by Sensei Aki Takahashi (p), Mr David Harrington (v1), Mr John Sherba (v2), Mr... Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2001 by catherine guelph
the drama of this composition is incalculably precise and unnerving. proceeding at a glacial pace, you could choose to resign this to backround music, but the heart of this... Read morePublished on Dec 6 2000 by evenmoregeneric
You could treat this as a piece of background ambience of a rather rarefied and inscrutable kind, but you'll be missing a great deal if you do. Read morePublished on Sept. 26 2000 by Julian Grant
I picked this album up by accident at the library. At first, it sounded strange, like X-Files music before something terrible occurs... Read morePublished on Dec 6 1999