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Feldman: Viola In My Life, Etc / Blum, Williams, Feldman

Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80657   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Morton Feldman
Performer:  Yuji TakahashiPaul JacobsMatthew RaimondiSeymour Barab,   ... 
Conductor:  Morton Feldman
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FELDMAN The Viola in My Life. 1,2 False Relationships and the Extended Ending. 2 Why Patterns? 3 Morton Feldman (pn), 3 cond; 1,2 Karen Phillips (va); 1 Arthur Bloom (cl); 1 Raymond Des Roches (perc); Read more class="SUPER12">1 David Tudor (pn); 1 Anahid Ajemian (vn); 1 Paula Robison (fl); 1 Seymour Barab (vc); 1,2 Yuji Takahashi (pn); 2 Richard Fitz (perc); 2 Paul Jacobs (pn); 2 Matthew Raimondi (vn); 2 Arnold Fromme (tbn); 2 Eberhard Blum (fl); 3 Jan Williams (perc) 3 NEW WORLD 80657 (74:58)

This is another invaluable reissue by New World from the CRI catalog. It brings together three important pieces from Feldman’s “middle period” (1970, 1968, and 1978 in the respective order of the headnote). The transfer of the analog masters is excellent (only a little bit of hiss remaining), and the document has an added importance, as it features the composer as conductor on two works and pianist on one.

The Viola in My Life is one of Feldman’s most overtly lyrical works. Indeed, one could almost call it endearing. Behind the extremely restrained surface of all this music, there’s a strain of tenderness and romantic gesture that connects it to the great Central European tradition, no matter how much the composer’s wisecracking persona tried to hide it. (Even the titles have a Woody Allenesque tone.) False Relationships and the Extended Ending is a little more “classical” in its avoidance of sustained melodic gesture, but the loveliness of its sonic surface still seduces. Indeed, in all these works, one thing that comes through is how much Feldman was concerned with beauty. He may have talked about creating a flat musical surface analogous to that of the New York abstract and minimalist painters he knew and befriended, but while all that is true, a more old-fashioned love of the sheer sensuality of sound and harmony imbues his work as well.

The latter two pieces are mind-twisters technically—I’ve conducted False Relationships , and I’ve seen the score of Why Patterns? , and they are genuinely strange, in that they appear to be notated conventionally, until one realizes that the measures in each part have different time signatures, and aren’t meant to align temporally. So what you see and what you hear are two different things. Aside from a certain willful perversity, I think Feldman was trying to force a sort of independence on musicians, actively to subvert their training by twisting the conventions they’d internalized.

And a special word on Why Patterns?. This is a remarkable piece, one of the purest and most mysterious of the composer’s output. Written for himself on piano, with Eberhard Blum, flute(s), and Jan Williams, glockenspiel, it’s a half-hour of a delicately twinkling night sky. There’s an innocent simplicity of the materials, matched by a complete sophistication of means to project that simplicity. All three performers are superlative. (Is it wrong to mention that once, looking at the score, I sensed the piano part was a little simpler than that of many other Feldman works, perhaps as he was playing himself? If so, it’s actually a tribute to his canny technique, which could so “purify” materials to fit his technique and not compromise the musical materials.) Special mention goes to Blum, whose senza vibrato tone on the lowest flute notes—he also plays alto and bass flutes, even though the liner notes don’t indicate this—produces an eerie effect a bit like a distant foghorn or a hooting owl. In this piece, the recurrent figures one has heard throughout Feldman’s work up to this point become even more overtly repetitive. It makes one think that Feldman may have actually been more influenced by the younger “motoric” American minimalists than he let on; it’s just that the glacial tempo of his music helps disguise the connection.

Only one production quibble: the ending of The Viola in My Life and beginning of False Relationships and the Extended Ending are very similar, and it would have been nice to have a longer silent separation between them. Otherwise, a great collector’s item that is highly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

False Relationships and the Extended Ending by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Yuji Takahashi (Piano), Paul Jacobs (Piano), Matthew Raimondi (Violin),
Seymour Barab (Cello), Arnold Fromme (Trombone), Richard Fitz (Percussion)
Conductor:  Morton Feldman
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/08/1970 
Venue:  Judson Hall, New York City 
Length: 16 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Why Patterns by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Eberhard Blum (Flute), Jan Williams (Percussion), Morton Feldman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/17/1978 
Venue:  State University College, Fredonia, NY 
Length: 30 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: This is the first release of this recording. 
The Viola in my Life no 1 by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Anahid Ajemian (Violin), David Tudor (Piano), Seymour Barab (Cello),
Karen Phillips (Viola), Raymond Des Roches (Percussion), Paula Robison (Flute)
Conductor:  Morton Feldman
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/07/1970 
Venue:  CAMI Hall, New York City 
Length: 12 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Notes: This selection shares a timing with "The Viola in my Life" nos. 1 and 2. 
The Viola in my Life no 2 by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Karen Phillips (Viola), Seymour Barab (Cello), David Tudor (Piano),
Paula Robison (Flute), Arthur Bloom (Clarinet), Raymond Des Roches (Percussion),
Anahid Ajemian (Violin)
Conductor:  Morton Feldman
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
Venue:  CAMI Hall, New York City 
Length: 9 Minutes 49 Secs. 
The Viola in my Life no 3 by Morton Feldman
Performer:  David Tudor (Piano), Karen Phillips (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
Venue:  CAMI Hall, New York City 
Length: 6 Minutes 1 Secs. 

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