Feldman: Untitled Composition for cello and piano

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LABELS: Attacca Babel
WORKS: Untitled Composition for cello and piano
PERFORMER: René Berman (cello), Kees Wieringa (piano)
In his last ten years (he died in 1987), Morton Feldman honed to perfection the main characteristics of his musical language: low dynamics, slow tempi, extended time-spans, sparse quasi-patterns of sound that seem to drift through space. In compositions such as Crippled Symmetry and For Philip Guston (both available on a Swiss label with the rather unlikely name of hat ART) the effect is hypnotically restful: an abstract sonic dreamscape that comes close to evoking serenity. Untitled Composition, from 1981, exists at a curious tangent to these works, its placid surfaces troubled by sudden restless phrases or pensive rumbles. A hint of bleakness has contaminated the surrounding calm, due more to a somewhat austere reading by the soloists than to any intention on the part of Feldman. Inspired by the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists, he eschewed all forms of representation in his music, seeing it more as the play of sounds unfolding in time. Tightly scored and tough to play (the cellist performs con sordino throughout), Untitled Composition is an intriguing, slightly unsettling piece, which confirms Feldman’s reputation as a highly original composer who knew how to use minimal means to maximum effect. Graham Lock