As versatile a composer as he is a performer and recording artist, Mark Feldman demonstrates extraordinary skills and a wide range of expressions in Book of Tells: Five Pieces for String Quartet, his 2001 release on Enja Records. However, it may be argued that the discipline of writing for string quartet is too rigorous for Feldman's effusive, showy style, and that these pieces function less as cogent works for four equal players than as virtuoso pieces for solo violin, discreetly backed by a trio. If any of these offerings suffers from such an imbalance, then it is the Kit Suite, which Feldman arranged from the original version for violin and piano. Despite an honest effort at integrating the parts, Feldman's vigorous solo stands out quite vividly, and the other musicians have either accompanimental passages or imitative extensions of the leading line. More naturally conceived for this instrumental grouping are Windsor Quartet, which has an evolving, conversational flow, and Book of Tells, which was composed for the Kronos Quartet, and sounds tailor-made for that famous foursome in its even mixing of distinctive lines and solid ensemble masses. Feldman is joined in these 1998-1999 performances by violinists Joyce Hammann and Cenovia Cummins, violist Lois Martin, and cellist Erik Friedlander, who acquit themselves admirably in all the pieces, even when the composer serves them less than idiomatic material.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson