Coptic Light; String Quartet and Orchestra*
Arditti Quartet*; ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Emilio Pomarico*, Michael Boder
Capriccio C5378 53:22 mins
In 1972 Morton Feldman surprised his NYC artistic circle by moving to Buffalo where he taught at the University until his death in 1987. The works on this absorbing release prompt a look back at his ensuing compositional journey: from the painterly distillation yet expansion of 1986’s Coptic Light – his final and possibly greatest orchestral work – to an earlier prototype in 1973’s String Quartet and Orchestra.
The two works have much in common, not least since Feldman returned in Coptic Light to a half-hour length that seems modest alongside the extended durations to which he’d increasingly been drawn. But here, with the capable Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra – conducted by Michael Boder, then Emilio Pomàrico and joined by the Arditti Quartet – it’s Feldman’s progressive refinement of colour that’s most striking.
In both pieces, shading and timbre meld with attack and decay as structural foundations within a hushed overall dynamic. The subtlety of the Arditti’s weaving in and out of the orchestra emphasises how little the earlier work resembles a conventional concerto, while the later work is an immersion in sonic chiaroscuro, offered as parallel to the warp and weft of Coptic textiles.