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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars four "still-life" works, some of Feldman's best, 26 July 2010
This review is from: Feldman: Piano and Orchestra; Flute and Orchestra; Oboe and Orchestra; Cello and Orchestra (Audio CD)
It took me some time to discover which of Feldman's works I like. The first thing I heard was "Rothko Chapel," along with "Why Patterns?", the New Albion disc (see my review). Great! Then I heard the hat Art recording of "For Samuel Beckett," played by the Ensemble Modern. Fantastic! Next, I heard the recording of "Piano and String Quartet" on Nonesuch with Aki Takahashi and the Kronos Quartet (see my review). I found this to be utterly boring, and it turned me off to the point that I didn't seek out any more Feldman until recently. Then I happened to hear a hat(now)Art Feldman disc called "Atlantis," that included "Oboe and Orchestra" and "String Quartet and Orchestra," and I was back to saying fantastic! I have realized that it's the middle period Feldman of the 1970s that I like the best. His early Cage-influenced graphic notation works, like "Atlantis," I don't find compelling. And the long, repetitive later works like "Piano and String Quartet," I don't find compelling either (though "For Samuel Beckett" is a late work, but one with more internal dynamics). It was in between that Feldman found his "zone," I think. And the pieces that seem to be concertos, that Feldman called the "still-life titles," are some of his finest works.

This cpo 2-disc set (2 discs for the price of one) includes four of Feldman's still-life titles, all with Hans Zender conducting the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken. The first in the series was "Cello and Orchestra," with Siegfried Palm, from 1972. Zender and Saarbrucken performed the premiere of the piece with Palm, and this is a studio recording from shortly afterward. "Piano and Orchestra" with Roger Woodward is from 1975, "Oboe and Orchestra" with Armin Aussem is from 1976, and "Flute and Orchestra" with Roswitha Staege is from 1977/78. The last is the only live recording of the four, and it is the premiere performance of the piece on May 19, 1978. These are not all the still-life works -- there are at least two more, the "String Quartet and Orchestra" on hat(now)Art and also a "Violin and Orchestra" recently released by Col Legno in their Musica Viva live series (VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA/COPTIC LIGHT -- it's outstanding, see my review).

Of the four pieces on this cpo disc, my favorite is the oboe, followed by the flute. The piano piece is the least dynamic, and so it might appeal more to those who enjoy the Kronos/Takahashi recording. By the time Feldman wrote these works, he had rejected all systems. He was simply listening to pure tones. I think perhaps the surprise and beauty of these pieces comes from his exploration of the tones as singular, and not parts of any system or pattern. In the late works, inspired by the subtle patterns in Persian rugs, it seems that he began to focus more on pattern and less on tone, perhaps similar in a way to Schoenberg's turn from total atonal freedom to the 12-tone system. I'm sure Feldman would reject such an analogy, but I suggest it only to make sense of the change in his work from his middle to late periods.

In any event, I highly recommend this collection of Feldman's still-life works. There are more recordings of two of them (cello and piano, I believe) on the Tilson-Thomas disc on Argo/Polygram. Unfortunately it is now out-of-print, though it was only released in 1999, and I missed it while I was in my rejecting-Feldman mode. So this Zender/cpo set is the perfect way to hear some of Feldman's best music.
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