For Bunita Marcus
Aki Takahashi (piano)
Mode mode 314 74.18 mins
By his later years, Morton Feldman (1926-87) had become a cult figure for experimentalists in the USA and beyond. His music, presenting as it does a heady mix of modernist rigour and postmodern scepticism, continues to epitomise yet somehow resist the paradoxes of postwar western culture and remains steeped in cryptic allure.
Feldman was drawn to abstract expressionist artists, as well as writers and fellow composers like John Cage – and the young dedicatee of his 1985 For Bunita Marcus, who was one of his pupils. This extraordinary piano work – infinitely coloured beneath its apparently flat surface; calm yet choppy with asymmetric rhythms and metre changes; spacious yet riddled with tension and never rising above a ppp dynamic – relies completely on its performer’s capacity to realise subtle horizontal voicings over a very long time span.
Touch is key. And, having collaborated with Feldman over many years, pianist Aki Takahashi is uniquely placed to understand how to apply it, as this luminous recording shows. Made in 2007 and released now for the first time, the sound is sonorous and immediate, and her control breathtaking. Intimate yet coolly distant, she creates an ever-changing present in which the listener’s ears become fine-tuned to the tiniest shifts in mood and colour. Steph Power