Mark Feldman / Sylvie Courvoisier

Oblivia

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The wrapper of this release by the married duo of violinist Mark Feldman (whose résumé includes country music sessions in Nashville) and Swiss-American pianist Sylvie Courvoisier makes big claims. "Oblivia redefines the format of violin & piano recitals," one learns. And, better still, "The future of classical music is here!" It's true that the music is fresh. Feldman and Courvoisier record for John Zorn's Tzadik label, and they share with other music on that label the tendency to use preexisting genres or even actual music as a point of departure. Where they depart is in their tense, superbly coordinated yet quite varied improvisation upon the model. They have several ways of going about constructing a composition, and the pieces on Oblivia mostly fall into short (two-minute) and longer (six-to-ten-minute) groups. One of the preexisting models is Astor Piazzolla's tango Oblivion, but little of the tango flavor remains in the brief Oblivia de Oblivion offered by this duo. That and the other short pieces on the album generally begin with a fairly complex figure; the improvisation seems to consist of a sort of shift of position between the two players. The longer pieces begin with simpler material that allows the duo to develop intricate coordinated structures; Double Windsor (track 6) is an example of this type. The models, as in Messiaenesque (track 3), come from twentieth century chamber music; the jazz aspect resides in the improvisation rather than in the rhythms or in any connection to popular traditions. There is no booklet; a word or two about creative process might have been helpful, but the music is generally absorbing, and fans of Zorn and his followers may want to tease out the processes over repeated listenings.

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