Feldman: Piano and Orchestra; Cello and Orchestra; Coptic Light

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WORKS: Piano and Orchestra; Cello and Orchestra; Coptic Light
PERFORMER: Alan Feinberg (piano), Robert Cohen (cello); New World Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 448 513-2
There is something endearing about Michael Tilson Thomas’s championing of Morton Feldman’s music, and there is also quite a bit that is extraordinary about the performances the conductor obtains from his New World Symphony. True, the three scores that receive their world premiere recordings here do not exactly call for orchestral bravura: this is quiet, contemplative stuff. But Feldman, that improbable Zen master from Brooklyn, could not ask for more persuasive sounds than those made by these young musicians from Miami.


The rich tapestry of proto-minimalist sounds fairly shimmers, from the weird Tristanesque echoes in Piano and Orchestra to the magical panorama of discreet sound events that make up Coptic Light. Alan Feinberg at his most chaste and articulate is the piano soloist, eerily faithful to the composer’s marking ‘without the feeling of a beat’.

At the centre is Cello and Orchestra, the strangest of the trio, where Robert Cohen’s cello insinuates itself with sinewy ease in and out of a series of semitonal oscillations and colourful orchestral clouds. The whole disc may work for some spiritually inclined listeners as a mantra for meditation. In fact, it may not be cruel to suggest that – while the outer pieces could be heard as tools first to induce the meditative state and then to emerge from it refreshed – the central Cello and Orchestra may be akin to the sounds of a good nap.


The sound engineering is superb in communicating the orchestra’s precocious control in this very quiet music. Octavio Roca