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Feldman: Patterns in a Chromatic Field - Music for Cello / Simonacci

Feldman / Simonacci / Simonacci
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 9401   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Morton Feldman
Performer:  Marco SimonacciGiancarlo Simonacci
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FELDMAN Patterns in a Chromatic Field. 1 Two Pieces. 1 Projection 1. Intersection 4. Four Songs to Poems by E. E. Cummings. 1,2 Two Instruments. 4 Durations 2. 1 Voices and Cello 2,3 Marco Simonacci (vc); 1 Read more class="ARIAL12">Giancarlo Simonacci (pn); 2 Paola Ronchetti, 3 Ilaria Severo (sop); 4 Fabio Frapparelli (hn) BRILLIANT 9401 (2 CDs: 119:27)

This set is titled Music for Cello , and as such, Marco Simonacci participates in every selection. Its other title, however, is Patterns in a Chromatic Field —as well it should be, because this is the dominant work in this set. With a duration of almost 90 minutes, it was too long to fit on a single CD, so the first 25 minutes of it are on the first disc, and the remainder comfortably fits on the second. It is a shame to break up this work in such a manner, but it was unavoidable … or not, because I know of one recording of this work that times in at 72 minutes (Berman and Wieringa on Attacca Babel) and another that requires 80:42 (Curtis and Karis on Tzadik).

Patterns in a Chromatic Field , composed in 1981, is late Feldman, but it is not as demanding (at least in scale) as other works from his last years. In fact, in a curious way, I find it to be a gently provocative work, not without humor, and not without narrative, at least of a sort. The cello and piano walk and talk together, usually listening and complementing each other, as they set out on a journey to find … well, who knows what. In explaining this work, annotator Marco Lenzi invokes the oriental rugs that Feldman collected, referring to the “crippled symmetry” of designs within those rugs. No two designs in a rug are exactly alike, and the designs’ placement, in relation to each other, is only approximately regular. Think of the designs as musical phrases and the relationship of the designs to one another as the work’s macro-structure, as well as the interrelationship between the cello and piano, and you will begin to have an idea of what Patterns in a Chromatic Field is like. (Its alternate title is Untitled Composition for Cello and Piano , which is somewhat like approaching an individual and announcing, “My name is Anonymous.”) What isn’t immediately obvious about this work, no matter what you call it, is the idea that it is a little sad and a little funny. The cello and the piano seem to be waiting for a Godot who, like Samuel Beckett’s, never arrives. In the meantime, they mark time, occasionally argue, and even occasionally panic. (Fairly late in the work, there is a brief passage that sounds like an alarm, as if one of the instruments, in a fit of despair, had called 911.) Sometimes, the music really does seem to be going around in circles (on both the macro and micro levels) and sometimes it sounds as if the musicians have run out of options and have painted themselves into a corner. One then thinks of another play by Beckett: Endgame . Arguably, it is not necessary to interpret this music, and the two Simonaccis (brothers? Siamese twins?) play it, with a few momentary exceptions, impassively, which seems exactly right. In so doing, they make Patterns in a Chromatic Field sound fragile, tragic, and yet also weirdly comical.

The Two Pieces from 1948 are unpublished, and not very interesting. Feldman, then only 22, was feeling his way down hallways other composers before him had traveled. Projection 1 and Intersection 4 , both for solo cello, are a step forward, but I don’t hear Feldman’s voice in them. Four Songs to Poems by E. E. Cummings is better, although no more than a pencil sketch. (The longest song requires 71 seconds, and the shortest just 28.) Soprano Paola Ronchetti sings them with purity. In the much later (1973) Voices and Cello , she is joined by Ilaria Severo, whose voice is well matched to Ronchetti’s. This is a rather ethereal work, in the manner of Rothko Chapel , which Feldman composed two years earlier. Two Instruments , for cello and horn, and Durations 2 , for cello and piano, are examples of Feldman’s free durational music, meaning that performers play at the same time, but not necessarily “together,” because each performer chooses his own durations within a given general tempo. They are fragile and relatively short, but again, I don’t find them as interesting as Feldman’s later works, although I admit that the combination of cello and horn in former work is interesting in and of itself.

Very fine performances here, not just from the two Simonaccis but from the other performers as well, for the same reasons already stated. This release, centered as it is on Feldman’s music for cello, fills a niche, and lucky for us, it fills it well. This is a worthwhile addition to the Feldman discography.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Songs (4) by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Marco Simonacci (Cello), Giancarlo Simonacci (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Projection no 1 for Cello solo by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Marco Simonacci (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; USA 
Patterns in a Chromatic Field by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Marco Simonacci (Cello), Giancarlo Simonacci (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USA 
Intersection no 4 by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Marco Simonacci (Cello), Giancarlo Simonacci (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Pieces (2) for Cello and Piano by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Marco Simonacci (Cello), Giancarlo Simonacci (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948 

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