Rohan de Saram / Marc Sabat / Aki Takahashi

Morton Feldman: Trio

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Morton Feldman: Trio Review

by Blair Sanderson

At an hour and 45 minutes, Morton Feldman's Trio (1980) is a chamber work of extraordinary duration, comparable in length and mood to his other marathon compositions, For Philip Guston, For John Cage, and For Christian Wolff, though it does not approach the heroic scale of his six-hour String Quartet II. One interesting aspect of Feldman's thinking is that his narrow dynamic range and close intervals are in inverse proportion to his expansive temporal dimension: for him, quiet sounds and small pitch relations were the norm, but his late music stretched out over vast timespans and had the effect that it didn't really build to a climax or go anywhere, but existed in a seemingly timeless yet constantly cycling stasis. The consistency of tone colors and gentleness of the pointillistic writing give the Trio a strong meditative quality, and it is quite easy to listen to, even though most of the chords are built on minor seconds and there are no real themes or even melodic fragments to follow. Indeed, the airiness of the music suggests that the soothing ambience is perhaps more important than any other musical aspect, and sustaining this delicate sound world requires the sensitivity and control that violinist Marc Sabat, cellist Rohan de Saram, and pianist Aki Takahashi bring. From barely audible pizzicati to piano chords that are repeated with the subtlest changes in emphasis, this group is steady through the entire performance, and listening to their evanescent playing is a pleasure that any Feldman fan will appreciate. Mode's reproduction is excellent for its responsiveness to the slightest musical effects and for its clean studio sound.

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