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Feldman: Coptic Light

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Song TitleArtist Time Price
  1. Feldman: Piano and OrchestraAlan Feinberg and Michael Tilson Thomas and The New World Symphony22:40Album Only
  2. Feldman: Cello and OrchestraMichael Tilson Thomas and Robert Cohen and The New World Symphony20:55Album Only
  3. Feldman: Coptic LightMichael Tilson Thomas and The New World Symphony29:43Album Only

Product Description Review

One might consider this small yet complex piece Morton Feldman's. nod to the 12-tone crowd. Odd thing, too, since early on, Feldman's New. York School cronies (also including John Cage and Christian Wolff) were. diametrically opposed to dodecophany and serialism. But in true Feldman. fashion, he takes an external compositional structure and makes it all. his own. It's easy to think of Feldman's work literally as musical. tapestries. Feldman himself loved the patterning of Middle Eastern rugs. and while visiting the Louvre, he happened to be knocked out by some. early Coptic textiles and, subsequently, was inspired to compose this. work. It's terrifically chaotic and takes a while for your ears to find. the underlying structures, but once you do, the power of the work seizes. and takes full effect of the listener. It's a moody work, reminiscent of. Feldman's hometown New York harbour on a foggy day. Beneath the haze. lurks a tremendous structure supporting everything that the composer. lays on top of it. It's a huge task that manages to wrap itself up in. under a half-hour. Also included on the disc are two earlier works,. 1972's Cello and Orchestra, and 1975's Piano and. Orchestra. --Kenneth Goldsmith

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Simply beautiful, and an exquisite refinement of sound 27 July 1999
By Rachel Abbinanti ( - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I doubt if Feldman heard much of his orchestral music during his lifetime, although he was a fine consummate craftsman,honing each chord, each sonority as if sculpted,drawn to the nuance,the emotive feel of a linear brushstroke. In fact it is ultimately all that is in the line, the line is like a signature, and can identify you for life. And Feldman thought of his music as a seemless flow, sound where its emanation cannot be detected;Simply there in space. "Piano and Orchestra" is not a concerto, that is furthest from the conceptual beauty of this piece, at least we should think so given Feldman's lifelong penchant for searching for new relations, new dimensions,new cross breeding of sonorities within the orchestral canvas. The piano here is like you've never heard it before,simple bell-like mildly dissonant,and preserving itself when it embarks onto its extreme register:when it has an entrance it is as a finely purified moment,surrounded by the precision of bare, thin,exposed and balanced orchestral sonorities. Feldman begins to give himself away around the center of the piece, with snarling expressionistic brass,and muted trumpets,around a menacing half step from Stravinsky's "Rite". But the piano always reaffirms the ongoing argument here, as well as the lower isolated tones in the harp. The odd tremoli or rolls from the barely perceptible bass drum was a stroke of genius. You may recall Webern's "Six Pieces"."Cello and Orchestra" is the same conceptual drawing from all registers of the versatile accomplice of the violoncello. And "Coptic Light" gleans itself from Feldman's lifelong study of textiles and rugs from the Middle East. He saw the colours as portraying the place where the rugs emanated from, as capturing with utmost fidelity their origin. Tilson Thomas has a committed bunch here in tackling Feldman's tireless beautiful music. His music is not much fun to play,counting numerous rests, and entering as if you are not even there,dovetailing always, a balancing act of orchestral discipline. I don't ever see this music entering standard repertoire,despite its profound musical scope. Thanks again.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
extremely quiet 4 Sept. 2000
By catherine guelph - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The music of Morton Feldman (1926-1987) can be frustrating to those who expect movement in time. I have found that this frame of mind opens the way to anxiety and tension. On the other hand, by listening to the sound as it is presented at the moment in time without expectation or anticipation, the music tends to release a transcendent quality. PIANO & ORCHESTRA and CELLO & ORCHESTRA are examples of this characteristic of Mr Feldman's music. Sounds are introduced which have a weak relationship to past and future. With the sound itself as its own goal, it surpasses knowledge and experience. I find this extremely unique and fascinating. COPTIC LIGHT accepts this approach, applying it to a more complex arrangement.
The word Copt is derived from the Greek word Aigyptos, which was, in turn, derived from "Hikaptah", one of the names for Memphis, the first capital of Ancient Egypt. The modern use of the term "Coptic" describes Egyptian Christians, as well as the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language script. Also, it describes the distinctive art and architecture that developed as an early expression of the new faith.
The Coptic Church is based on the teachings of Saint Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century, a dozen of years after the Lord's ascension. He was one of the four evangelists and the one who wrote the oldest canonical gospel. Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Saint Mark's arrival in Alexandria as is clear from the New Testament writings found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, which date around the year 200 A.D., and a fragment of the Gospel of Saint John, written using the Coptic language, which was found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the second century.([...])
Regardless of your interest in spiritual matters, I find that thinking about these types of eternal questions fits well with the endless nature of this piece. If you are interested in American Composers of the late 20th Century, or in music which is contemplative, this CD will be interesting to you.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great Introduction to Feldman 7 Dec. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is a great introduction CD to Feldman's art. The performances are superb, slightly edging out the cpo recordings and in better sound. Give it a chance and you will discover one of the finest composers of the late 20th century.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Crystals and Tapestries 17 Aug. 2002
By Christopher Forbes - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Feldman is fast becoming an obsession with me. His extremely hieratic sound world challenges the listener to use differing ears to listen, ears that listen to each sound "in the moment" and not impose typical ideas of directionality and development so traditional in music of the west. The three pieces on this album are great introductions to this subtle composer.
Piano and Orchestra is fast becoming my favorite Feldman piece. Written as part of a series of works for instruments and orchestra in the 70's, the work lives from moments to moment, consisting of soft discreet sounds separated by silences. Feldman's ear for instrumental sonority is unmatched. Ear sound is lush...dissonant and yet gorgeous, rather in the manner of Debussy or Messiaen. And the quiet dynamics increase the beauty of each sound. There is a sense of form, a series of chords played over and over by the pianist and echoed by the orchestral pianist create what is a recognizable "theme", is you can call such minimal material a theme. But the best way to listen to this music is to think of it as an object of sound, rather like a crystal with light coming through it. Static on the surface, but infinitely fascinating if you quiet down your own mind and just observe it.
Cello and Orchestra is from the same series, though written earlier. I am less enamoured of this one, though I like it. I'm not sure what leaves me colder in it. Perhaps the sustained nature of the cello makes this piece a little more conventional than Piano and Orchestra, a little more like a concerto. It is nevertheless a beautiful work.
The final work on the CD is Coptic Light. This is a stunning work from Feldman's late period, but with the virtue of being much shorter than most works from this time. (A true performance of Feldman's Second String Quartet would take 4 hours, but even the Kronos would not attempt that. They said they couldn't make it hang together.) Coptic Light, which gets it's name from a style of oriental carpet, is really rather like looking at one of those fascinating designs. Initially you only notice the symmetry in the if the pieces was all one unchanging folding out of it's first bars. But a careful listening reveals that each pattern is constantly changing. Motives repeat with rhythmic variations, subtle changes in melodic material, and changes in the vertical arrangement, creating an infinately shifting tapestry. The work is haunting.
The "_____ and Orchestra" series has been recorded on CPO by Hans Zender and the Southwest German Radio Orchestra, so the claim on the recording that these are world premieres is wrong. (The CPO discs may actually be reissues of old Wergo CDs as well, as they were originally recorded in the 70's and have that "Wergo" look.But I may be wrong.) This recording of Piano and Orchestra is longer than the Zender recording and the indications in the score by about 5 minutes, but tempo aside, I'm unable to make a determination between the two versions. I like the way the Zender CD hangs together better, but I like the sound quality and the pianist better on this CD. Tilson Thomas does a wonderful job with this music. On the "Cello and Orchestra" recording Tilson Thomas is faster than Zender, and on this work I clearly prefer the European conductor. There is another available recording of Coptic Light as well, but I don't have it. Despite what one reviewer said here, on the page for that recording, there is alot of carping about the performance and the general consensus is that Tilson Thomas' version is better, so I am loath to invest the money to find out for myself, not when there is so much more Feldman out there to explore.
Do yourself a favor, listen to this CD...perhaps borrow it from a friend first (Feldman is an aquired taste I think. I wouldn't have gotten him ten years ago.) Listen with attention, but not concentration, rather like a musically guided meditation. Only then do you start to get where Feldman is trying to take you.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
getting lost in the moment 20 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Speaking from personal experience, Feldman's music is EXTREMELY difficult to perform effectively. Here, Tilson Thomas and the NWS present some of the best performances of Feldman's orchesral music ever recorded. My only reservations about this recording lie in its promotion and packaging; the pieces on this disc are touted as "premiere recordings," when in fact all three works were recorded on the German CPO label in the late 80s/early 90s. Sadly, this is one of the last releases on Decca's "Argo" sub-label, which has now been shut down after many fine years of service to contemporary music.
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