Morton Feldman

Works for Piano, Vol. 2

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This second volume of Feldman's piano works is like the first: based on the idea of aesthetic development rather than the pursuit of a chronological or complete presentation of the composer's works written for that instrument. Interestingly enough, however, is the fact that all but one of the pieces here are from the 1950s, when the artist was obsessed with the subtle timbres in the piano's range of expression. Each work from the re-recording of "Intermission V" which appeared on the first volume, through the four "Last Pieces" in 1959, "Piano Piece," 1952, "Two Intermissions," from 1950 and 1953's "Intermission VI", reveals a different part of the mysterious puzzle Feldman was working on. Tension, timbre, color, nuance, harmonic interval, and the idea that whatever could possibly be called melody in these pieces could only evolve from the silences between the notes; all were being developed during this period. During this time, Feldman was using a kind of notiation that allowed for structured silences, some so subtle they didn't even register on the page. This leaves a lot to the discretion and judiciousness of the performer. Steffen Schleiermacher, like many of the Europeans that have discovered a kindred spirit in Feldman since his passing, proves this point. Often his durations and extensions of silence are erratic, notes are held longer than others, and a score is read differently from the one just preceding it. This is especially true in "Two Intermissions." The second of the pair is played without artifice or intent, executed with transparency where the first seems almost forced in its tension, as if he were fighting the piece instead of playing it or letting it play him. The final work here, the 36-minute "Five Pianos" is another thing entirely. Here the notation is precise; Feldman had long since ceased giving control of the score to the performer. This work, the beginning of his larger scale compositions, is stunning in its ability to pare down even the slightest of timbres to their essential ordered silences and pass them through the prism of another piano's timbres involved in the same process until all five are engaged in the act while space between them abounds. That the work can be played at all is a miracle; that it is performed here with such precision and care is a tribute to the inherent humanity and grace in Feldman's music. Each player loses himself in the score, and as a result in its lines finds himself anew, altered by silence and its relationships to sound and its organization. This is fine second addition to the Hat catalogue of Feldman works.

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