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The Northern Shore is the first CD devoted exclusively to the work of Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman, whose relatively small output comprises mostly chamber pieces. In the mid-1980s she spent three years studying with Morton Feldman (and, in 1987, married him), so it’s hardly surprising if her music resembles his in some respects – both, for example, could be characterised as extremely quiet, calm and spacious, though hers, comparatively, has the busier, more ruffl ed surfaces. There are many differences too, of course; while both composers embraced visual stimuli, Feldman was much influenced by abstract expressionist painting, whereas Monk Feldman cites nature as a prevailing inspiration, albeit one she says is mysterious and often contrary.

Of the two works on this disc, The Northern Shore (1997) – played here in the version for trio by Stephen Clarke, Marc Sabat and Dirk Rothbrust – relates to the view of a distant shore, vanishing and reappearing as the light changes; while the solo piano In the Small Time of a Desert Flower (2000), played with wonderful finesse by Aki Takahashi, is associated with ‘the fragility of a flower’ Monk Feldman saw in the New Mexico desert.

Yet, she insists, ‘there is never any conscious intention to write programmatic music’, only a hope that the tones might act as ‘the barest metaphor for time in nature’. This hope is best realised in the piano piece, its tranquil ripples a token of the beauty inherent in time’s gentle ravages.

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