horizontal line

Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello was Morton Feldman’s last work, composed only a few months before his sudden death from cancer in 1987. Like many of his late works, it is long, quiet, has no dramatic changes of tempo or dynamic and is hypnotically repetitive, although its patterns unfold gradually through a myriad of tiny, subtle variations, so the music is always in flux, similar yet never the same. Figures and chords seem to linger, like long sighs or intakes of breath (the piano’s damper pedal is held down throughout), but less like sighs of pleasure or sadness than something more profound, as if the soul itself were breathing.

Pianist Aleck Karis, in his CD notes, recalls Christian Wolff’s suggestion that the scale of Feldman’s late works tends to disorient listeners, transporting them into a trance-like state: ‘The music invites its own interruption, but as an internal, wholly subjective, private event’. Karis himself likens the experience to strolling through Venice at night: ‘One may feel lost, but one is in a very beautiful place. A pleasurable disorientation can be part of the magic.’

I feel so disoriented I’m not sure how to compare these recordings. Both have entranced me at times, so the differences are probably insignificant. But, speaking very subjectively and exaggerating my impressions, I’d say: the Bridge version has relaxed playing, soft-edged strings and a close, dusky acoustic; the Quartetto Klimt features taut playing from piquant strings in a clear, spacious acoustic. Both conjure beautiful places where a listener can enjoy getting lost.

GRAHAM LOCK Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing