The music on this recording (reissued from CRI CD 620) illustrates the essential integrity of the work of Morton Feldman (1926-1987) and one of its fundamental strengths--its continuously unfolding unanimity of purpose. There are few composers of his generation whose first and last published work (in Feldman's case Journey to the End of Night of 1949 and Piano and String Quartet of 1986) span youth and final years with such a concentrated viewpoint.
There are, however, landmarks in the music of Feldman that are largely technical and notational. There are the graphic pieces, the first from 1950 and the last from 1964, in which some parameter of composition is not specified (often pitch). There are the "free duration pieces," both solo and ensemble, in which there is instruction either for sections of the piece or for its entirety. False Relationships and the Extended Ending (1968) is a late example of this kind, although Why Patterns? (1978) is a variant of the principle. There are also the conventionally notated works in his oeuvre, one of which is The Viola in My Life (1970).
It may be that Feldman's music will always strike a certain kind of listener as idiosyncratic--a denial of the time-honored ways in which music articulates itself. I think that Feldman was deeply offended by this response, by this notion that his music was singular because it was, as some might say, "missing something." Though it is true that his values of graduation can be exceedingly fine, when one enters this scale and comprehends it, something truly new and wonderful opens up in the art of music--a world in which the relative and the absolute become engaged with themselves.
Karen Phillips, viola; Anahid Ajemian, Matthew Raimondi, violin; Seymour Barab; cello; David Tudor, Paul Jacobs, Yuji Takahashi, pianos; Eberhard Blum, Paula Robison, flute; Arthur Bloom, clarinet; Arnold Fromme, trombone; Jan Williams, Richard Fitz, Raymond DesRoches, percussion; Morton Feldman, piano, conductor
Reviews"The entirety of The Viola in My Life is expertly paced, with the septet folding together one of Feldman's conventionally notated works, with the instrument of the title the jewel set in the midst of the other players' slowly shifting, 'flat plane' of tonal possibility." - Dusted Magazine