Classical CD Reviews
MORTON FELDMAN: Complete Violin/Viola and Piano Works – Christina Fong, violin/viola; Paul Hersey, piano – OgreOgress Productions
Published on February 15, 2006
You’ve got to hand it to Morton Feldman. He’s created such a flexible body of Gebrauchtmusik. Although not exactly ambient sounds, much of his music is so eminently listenable you can play it and work at the same time without (a) having it distract you, and (b) missing much through random attention lapses. It’s even better than minor Baroque concerti. With almost no drama, it contains sprigs of human emotions like seductiveness, humor, and vague unease —if you listen closely. In For Aaron Copland for example, the insistent two- and three-note figures produce a hypnotic effect, simple and yet compelling. (However, I wouldn’t recommend it for a massage session.) Some listeners I’ve played it for expect it to suddenly raise dynamics and turn scary, but it never does.
This two-disc set covers nearly forty years in Feldman’s composing career, starting with the atypical student work, (sonata) for violin and piano (1945). Ironically, this melodic piece, with its use of folk melodies and traditional structure, has more in common with Aaron Copland than the piece For Aaron Copland. Other early pieces from the fifties and sixties reveal the bold experimenter trying to find his way amidst aleatory devices, sudden cacophony, and startling sounds, like the abrupt piano chords of projection 4. In vertical thoughts 2 he experiments with long rests, interrupted by an insinuating pianissimo violin. In the seventies his music puts on weight and inaugurates his passion for repetition, which often morphs into clusters of slight variation. The centerpiece of this album, played most skillfully and enigmatically by Fong and Hersey, is the work for John Cage – a 66 minute piece that has enough odd sound juxtapositions and twisty tone rows to defy listener ennui. One suggestion for OgreOgress Productions: please use better packaging for your CDs. The flimsy open binder, although pretty, lets the dust and spider mites in. [Perhaps they intend you should take a Chance of that happening, eh?...Ed.]
- Peter Bates