Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello was Morton Feldman’s last work. Not only does it have comparable qualities in scale and content to other mature masterpieces such as Piano and String Quartet (review), but also it seems, if anything, to possess them under an enhancing lens. The spread chords of Piano and String Quartet lend an elaborated, almost baroque flavour to the piece by comparison with the chords of Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, which drop into the sonic landscape vertically.
There is much to be said about this music but there are few words which sum it up better than the composer’s own commentary on the stretched duration of his later pieces, “… scale is another matter. You have to have control of the piece – it requires aRead more heightened kind of concentration. Before, my pieces were objects; now, they are like evolving things.”
Seventy-five minutes may seem daunting for a single piece of music, but it can easily embrace you in its time-altering atmosphere, and the duration can smoothly pass with the lightness of the beat of a butterfly’s wing. In the beauty of its closing minutes you can find yourself wishing it had been longer. That sense of ‘control’ is evident at every moment. There are no sections where the composer is marking time, nor thank goodness is there any evidence of the musicians back-pedalling in this excellent performance. There is relaxation and tension; as there is in the movement of your own chest when breathing. Notes and chords follow with impeccable logic from their predecessors, phrases are shaped, contrasts of timbre emerge, broad curves of profoundly far-reaching musical gesture are spread before us.
Everyone will have their own personal response to this, but for me it is an ultimate expression of loneliness. There is an undeniable melancholy about this piece, which always shifts away from any consolatory resolutions which seek to take root too firmly. There are fragments which might remind you of Debussy’s Des pas sur la neige, and in some ways it might be seen as a vast extension of its first two bars. As pianist Aleck Karis states in his brief booklet note, this is also a “luminous melancholy”, one which creates impulse and attracts rather than making one turn away and wish it would stop.
I’ve had a hunt around but there don’t seem to be any readily available alternatives. The Hat Hut label released a recording in 1995 with members of the Dutch Ives Ensemble which is no longer in print. In any case I have no hesitation in choosing this as a default first choice. If I have any criticism of the recording it is that the piano sounds a little soft-textured or mid-range heavy in its timbre, but this is not something which detracts from the effect of the whole.
-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International Read less
A demanding (but rewarding) listening experienceMay 14, 2015By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA)See All My Reviews"Late in his career Morton Feldman became fascinated with the extremes of duration. This 1987 work, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello comes from that period and clocks in at 75;13. It's not his longest work, the 6-hour 2nd String Quartet holds that honor. But its length does make some demands -- and has some effect -- on the listener (at least this one). The work is in a single movement, and Bridge presents it on disc with a single track. So the only way to really listen to the work is start at the beginning, and follow through to the end -- just the way Feldman intended. The work has a rather thin texture. Each instrument has a few notes they play, sometimes in conjunction with one or two others. These note clusters come and go in waves that aren't precisely timed, but have an inherent rhythm to them, like very slow breathing. The music forced me to listen to it on Feldman's terms -- not mine. There are no easily discernible motives, no recognizable sections or forms. The music simply... is. And once I became comfortable with that concept, I felt I could appreciate it. Like a mobile faintly stirred by a gentle breeze, the music seemed to slowly circle around itself, creating new patterns as different note clusters aligned. Ever changing, yet ever the same. This music is very slow and very soft -- two of the most demanding aspects of performance. To maintain the focus and control this work requires for over an hour is an amazing feat -- and one that these soloists accomplish. I did have one quibble with the recording -- it seemed a little soft around the edges. But perhaps that was deliberate. The softness of the instrumental sound is in keeping with the ambiguity of the music. An excellent addition to Bridge Record's survey of Morton Feldman's music."Report Abuse