Morton Feldman

Piano and Orchestra (1975)/Flute and Orchestra (1977/78)/Cello and Orchestra

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Brilliantly conducted by Hans Zender with various soloists and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbr├╝cken (Radio Symphony Orchestra of Saarbr├╝cken). Completed in 1975, Piano and Orchestra is part of a series of compositions -- Cello and Orchestra, Chorus and Orchestra, String Quartet and Orchestra -- which Feldman referred to as "still-lives." "The desire here is to arouse attention to the color of the work (orchestration) rather than to the compositional method used" (Feldman). Specific combinations of timbres are introduced, at first isolated from each other -- a plaintive repeated D-flat in the piano over quietly sustained strings, an obsessive movement from between A-flat and B-flat in the piano constantly harmonized with fresh and surprising tones accompanied by string harmonics, clusters moving in tight motion in the winds, and so on. Then these patterns are varied in many ways by themselves and overlapping with other patterns. After a while, the listener hears these patterns as characters. When the patterns get extended in a sequence or when they touch without the isolating silence, the effect is striking because of the contrast with the initial procedure that occupies almost 15 of the approximately 25 minutes duration of this piece. Although the music is marked "extremely quiet," it nevertheless sometimes bursts out in loud accumulated clusters. And, also marked "without the feeling of a beat," the repeated tones avoid the feeling of a steady pulse by being unequal in duration, and in very complex proportions (for example, double-dotted eighths and sixteenths in a 5/4 measure, followed by a measure of 3/4 with a quarter-note triplet on the last two beats, followed by a measure in 2/2, etc.). There is no specific program to the piece, but the surprising lushness of some chords, the plaintive simplicity of the piano writing, the highly inventive orchestral timbres, and the feeling of character surrounded by stillness all evoke deep spirituality (approached by but beyond the emotional). Upon reaching the conclusion of the piece, the listener feels transformed in some unnamed way.