A new 5-CD set of recordings featuring Morton Feldman’s solo piano music, the most complete set available. Including some rare early and unpublished pieces, the set traces Feldman’s early development through to his extended late pieces.
A 52-page booklet discusses the music as well as Feldman’s relationship with the piano, and a more personal reflection on Philip’s relationship with Feldman’s music.
Disc One: 1-4 Last Pieces (1959) 5 Piano (1977) 6 Palais de Mari (1986)
Disc Two: 1 Untitled piano piece (194?) ** 2-5 Illusions (1949) 6-8 Three Dances (1950) 9-13 Nature Pieces (1951) 14 Variations (1951) 15-16 Two Intermissions (1950) 17 Intermission 3 (1951) 18 Intermission 4 (1952) 19 Intersection 2 (1951) 20-22 Three Pieces for Piano (1954) 23 Piano Piece 1955 24 Piano Piece 1956A 25 Piano Piece 1956B 26 Intermission 6 #1 (1953) 27 Intermission 5 (1952)
Disc Three: 1 Intermission 6 #2 (1953) 2 Extensions 3 (1952) 3-4 Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’ (1954) ** 5 Piano Piece 1952 6 Intersection 3 (1953) 7 Piano Piece (1964) 8 Vertical Thoughts 4 (1963) 9 Figure of Memory (1954) ** 10 Piano Piece (1963) 11 Intermission 6 #3 (1953) 12 Triadic Memories start (1981)
Disc Four: 1 Triadic Memories concluded (1981)
Disc Five: 1 For Bunita Marcus (1986)
**= first published recording
The Guardian, Classical CD of the week: ‘Morton Feldman wrote for the piano for most of his composing career, and the 46 pieces included in Philip Thomas’s collection – the most extensive survey of this music to date, including several works recorded for the first time – provide a thread through its changing emphases and stylistic shifts. The earliest here is an untitled piece from 1942, just one minute long and composed when Feldman was 16; the latest is Palais de Mari from 1986, the year before his death.ollection – the most extensive survey of this music to date, including several works recorded for the first time – provide a thread through its changing emphases and stylistic shifts. The earliest here is an untitled piece from 1942, just one minute long and composed when Feldman was 16; the latest is Palais de Mari from 1986, the year before his death.
Thomas has been studying and playing Feldman for a quarter of a century, and his lengthy essay accompanying these discs, in which, as well as the pieces themselves, he discusses different approaches to interpreting this fascinatingly varied music, is an essential addition to the performances. As he points out, recordings of both of the biggest works here, the 90-minute Triadic Memories from 1981, and the hour-long For Bunita Marcus, written four years later, already run into double figures, and he admits to having had doubts about adding to those numbers. But including them as part of a much more comprehensive set made sense, for it enabled him, as he writes, “to find out how one piece rubs against another, where the contrasts and points of contact are.” The pieces that Thomas has omitted, and his reasons for doing so, are clearly explained, too.
What we have here, then, is an authoritative presentation of some of the most important keyboard music of the second half of the 20th century. If the works here from the late 1940s and early 50s reveal the importance of Morton Feldman wrote for the piano for most of his composing career, and the 46 pieces included in Philip Thomas’s collection – the most extensive survey of this music to date, including several works recorded for the first time – provide a thread through its changing emphases and stylistic shifts. The earliest here is an untitled piece from 1942, just one minute long and composed when Feldman was 16; the latest is Palais de Mari from 1986, the year before his death. meticulously calculated harmonies, whether the scores are indeterminate, or notated conventionally or graphically. Between 1964 and 1977, Feldman wrote nothing for solo piano, but the piece with which he broke that silence, baldly titled Piano, is one of the most remarkable in the whole set. Though it is far less well-known than the larger scale works that followed it, Piano seems to exploit every facet of the instrument – its range of tone and touch, harmonics and resonance – more comprehensively than anything else Feldman wrote. It provides a perfect demonstration of Thomas’s mastery and understanding of this music too, alive to every inflection and subtle change of colour, and to every challenge it presents.’
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
‘It’s 20 years since John Tilbury released his highly regarded set of Morton Feldman’s complete piano music on the LondonHALL label. Since then the composer’s reputation has undergone a transformation. Where once new Feldman recordings were rare and exciting, these days keeping up with the release schedule takes real effort….
This new compendium of Feldman played by the Sheffield based pianist Philip Thomas is released partly in acknowledgement of Tilbury’s pioneering efforts two decades ago. But so much has changed, with so many recordings of the piano music already available, that Thomas has had to think carefully about his motivation in adding to the stockpile…. as you’d expect from Another Timbre, the textures and colours in this new set are vividly captured and expertly balanced.
But Thomas’s approach – working closely with his producer Simon Reynell – moves far beyond wanting to approximate a concert hall perspective of live Feldman on disc. In a 50 page essay about his relationship to Feldman’s music, Thomas emphasises that while other composers make you think about the sound of a G sharp, Feldman focuses the concentration on how notes feel. The unique challenges of his piano writing, Thomas implies, returns his interpreters to basic questions: about how the wrist moves as the hand attacks a note – if indeed attack is the right word in the context of Feldman; about the coordination of fingertip working in combination with fingerpad. Articulation that works well for Beethoven or Stockhausen would likely torpedo the delicate equilibrium of a Feldman score. Thomas writes that his set was recorded so that “the listener is somehow snuggled inside the body of the instrument, ears almost touching the strings, feeling the vibrations as the hammer strikes”.
…Throughout the set you’re aware of how thoroughly Thomas grasps the architecture of the music, and how deeply this sensitivity is grounded inside an intimate communion with the resonant swells and overtones of Feldman. Again and again I was reminded of Bach playing of the highest order as Thomas’s crystalline clear orientation around line makes the motility between contrapuntal lines dance internally. My favourite moment in the whole set occurs midway during For Bunita Marcus as Thomas nonochalantly slips the rhythm into double-time, while maintaining absolute control over dynamics, notes not so much played as massaged to life.’
Philip Clark, The Wire