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Joel Feigin: Lament Amid Silence

Feigin / Callus
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1413   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Joel Feigin
Performer:  Joel FeiginHelen Callus
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Callus Viola Studio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FEIGIN Lament. 1 Meditations 1 and 2. 2 Ghosts. 3 Lament with Ghosts 3 1 Helen Callus (va); 2 Joel Feigin (pn); 3 Callus Viola Studio MSR CLASSICS MSR 1413 (53:54)

Read more /> This, like the other CD I reviewed of music by Feigin, makes its mark through a very personal and emotional combination of tonal and atonal elements. Opening quotes on the first page of the booklet state “Amid lament, there is silence; within silence, there is lament,” and this is indeed the guiding principle Feigin uses in constructing this music. The opening Lament for solo viola is full of angst—much of the music here resembles Hindemith—but there are also remarkably lyric interludes, brief soaring melodic lines that stand out, and of course many moments of silence which redouble the effect of the music. It must be said that violist Helen Callus is an extraordinary musician, able to elicit every mood and change of mood that Feigin has written into his score, and this opening movement is, for her, a real tour de force.


The three sections of this work for strings—the opening lament for solo viola, “Ghosts” for six violas and “Lament with Ghosts” for seven violas—are the longest portions of the score. They are broken up by two pieces from Feigin’s Four Meditations from Dogen, played by him on the piano. The first of these is a very slow, sparse, Satie-like piece with some modern harmonies.


The composer also makes it clear that some of these movements, and particularly “Ghosts” which is the most radical, may be played as independent works in performance. I personally found it to be the most turgid and unappealing piece in the suite; lament is one thing, but violent indigestion translated into music sounds is unacceptable to me. This piece consists largely of violent “zings” across the strings with a violent downbow action, followed by either very light, high whines on the strings or silence. Personally, I prefer the silence. Surprisingly, at about six and a half minutes in, the strings play a very lovely minor-key lament, and the music that follows—although certainly agitated—has a more coherent form, but all in all I didn’t care for this portion of the work. The piece alternates this way, between ear-hurting whines and shards of viola playing and melodic snippets. Fortunately, we then get the second piano Meditation, and this one is even more lovely and tuneful than the one preceding. Talk about a study in contrasts!


As could be expected, Lament with Ghosts combines elements of the two previous viola pieces. I had conflicting feelings about this one: I liked much of it, but found the violent outbursts a bit too violent for either a lament or a meditation. As on the previous works, Callus and her Viola Studio group play with exceptional feeling and virtuosity. This is the world premiere recording of this cycle of pieces, but truth to tell, it would be difficult to imagine anyone playing them as well, let alone better. Highly recommended to lovers of modern music.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Lament Amid Silence by Joel Feigin
Performer:  Joel Feigin (Piano), Helen Callus (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Callus Viola Studio

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