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Feldman: For Frank O'Hara, Bass Clarinet & Percussion / New Millennium Ensemble

Release Date: 02/22/2000 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7466   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Morton Feldman
Performer:  Tara Helen O'ConnorMarianne GythfeldtSunghae Anna LimGregory Hesselink,   ... 
Conductor:  Bradley Lubman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Millennium Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Morton Feldman's quiet, pensive, mysterious, and masterful music benefits greatly from the immaculately (if artificially) clean, undisturbed backdrop of digital technology, and yet I can easily recall a time when it seemed like no one was interested in releasing any of it on CD. Fortunately attitudes have changed, so much so that nonrepertoire items like these are now receiving multiple recordings. I enjoyed the New Millennium Ensemble's previous mixed bag of contemporary compositions (see Fanfare 21:5), though by concentrating on only Feldman this time around they've tackled a different, more difficult set of problems. For example, as much as I'm drawn to his music, Bass Clarinet and Percussion is one tough nut that I've yet to crack. The Read more instruments share a curious relationship—the percussion is alternately supportive and antagonistic, and while there's an unusual (well, for Feldman anyway) amount of melodic continuity in the bass clarinet (but which by the end of the work is reduced to a single pitch), it hasn't the focus, tension, character, or atmosphere I hear in most of his music. I'm afraid that this version by Marianne Gythfeldt and John Ferrari, while faithful enough, doesn't reveal any of its secrets. In the other three, ensemble-oriented, works, the group has a definite point of view. They don't like to linger over Feldman's isolated tones or resonating textures—these are the fastest times I've found in these pieces. For Frank O 'Hara clocks in at just under 15 minutes (the score suggests 13[!] minutes, but obviously Feldman wasn't fanatical about it, because the version he gave his blessing to—originally available on an Odyssey LP and badly in need of reissuing—was over 18 minutes long). Of course, the point is not speed but pace; the suspense and suspension of instrumental colors between stasis and inexorable motion here have always seemed to suggest an elegy for the young poet. (The nature of the music certainly does not reflect his vibrant personality.) The somewhat distant sound quality may also be closer to what was Feldman's taste—he often expressed a preference for sound that verged on the threshold of inaudibility, and composed pieces specifically to resemble what he called "The Departing Landscape," that is, music from the perspective of going away from instead of approaching the listener—though I prefer the larger dynamic range and clarity of instruments in the recording by the Ensemble Avantgarde (on Wergo). The same holds true for the overlapping, constantly changing fabric of colors in De Kooning, and the denser, brighter, and livelier Instruments I (with its surprisingly swoopy horn and pungent oboe). I can find no fault with these interpretations, but they haven't seduced me. (Alas, there was a glitch at the CD factory, so that there is only one index point on the disc; thus the four pieces flow together without access to any of them individually. Perhaps Koch will let us know if a new, corrected pressing is in the offing.)

Though he'd never be confused with Berlioz, Feldman's orchestration of For Samuel Beckett is (at least by comparison to these fragile, flat, shadowy, nearly transparent chamber pieces) a very thick, pulsating, obsessive entity. This is a large-scale, "all-over" canvas (more Pollock than Rothko, in my mind)—an expansion of the instrumental interaction of Instruments I in some ways, while borrowing Beckett's noncommittal existential demeanor in that it has no apparent reason for beginning and ending, though is obsessed with "being." The music never goes anywhere, and yet though it gives the appearance of stasis, it's hardly repetitive—there is all kinds of shifting, transforming, mutational activity going on under the surface. Right now, primarily due to the clarity of textural details, this new KNM Berlin version is my favorite—at least until I go back and relisten to the others.

-- Art Lange, FANFARE [5/2000] Read less

Works on This Recording

For Frank O'Hara by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Tara Helen O'Connor (Flute), Marianne Gythfeldt (Clarinet), Sunghae Anna Lim (Violin),
Gregory Hesselink (Cello), Margaret Kampmeier (Piano), Thomas Kolor (Percussion),
John Ferrari (Percussion)
Conductor:  Bradley Lubman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Millennium Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; USA 
Bass Clarinet and Percussion by Morton Feldman
Performer:  John Ferrari (Percussion), Thomas Kolor (Percussion), Marianne Gythfeldt (Bass Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Millennium Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USA 
De Kooning by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Margaret Kampmeier (Piano), John Ferrari (Percussion), Gregory Hesselink (Cello),
Sunghae Anna Lim (Violin), Margaret Kampmeier (Celesta), Daniel Grabois (French Horn)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Millennium Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1963; USA 
Instruments I by Morton Feldman
Performer:  Benjamin Herrington (Trombone), Tara Helen O'Connor (Alto Flute), Jacqueline Leclair (Oboe),
Margaret Kampmeier (Celesta), John Ferrari (Percussion), Thomas Kolor (Percussion)
Conductor:  Bradley Lubman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Millennium Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; USA 

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