Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
at182 Morton Feldman
‘Piano and String Quartet’ (1985) 79:50
Mark Knoop (piano), Mira Benjamin & Gordon Mackay (violins),
Bridget Carey (viola), Anton Lukoszevieze (cello)
Cover painting by Nivag Phoenix
During Covid lockdown in January 2021 Apartment House performed a series of three concerts in a single day at Wigmore Hall in London. All three concerts were devoted to the music of Morton Feldman, and all were broadcast live to an online audience around the world. One of the highlights of the day was their realisation of Piano and String Quartet in the final of the three concerts. Like many of Feldman’s late works, Piano and String Quartet is an exceptionally long work, and listening to Apartment House’s performance, we immediately wanted to record their interpretation and release it as a CD.
We asked Anton Lukoszevieze, the leader of Apartment House, who had programmed the Wigmore Hall concerts, why he had chosen this piece.
Anton Lukoszevieze: Piano and String Quartet, one of Feldman’s final works, is a seemingly simple work and yet it isn’t. As Philip Guston, a great friend of Feldman, wrote ‘Frustration is one of the great things in art; satisfaction is nothing.’
The length of the work (nearly 80 minutes) and the erasure of musical memory (What did we just hear?) is in fact its identity. Feldman makes simple statements, a piano arpeggio or a sustained string chord, holds these things and examines them over time. Gradually, as the sun’s light moves across a still life through the day, like a drawn out Morandi painting, the work evolves and indeed dissolves in some sense.
Using different transformative processes, Feldman illuminates his basic material and achieves the miraculous, an extended work of great beauty and enigmatic wonder. There are ghosts there, tinctures of late Schubert, Brahms and even Janaček, where beauty is a signature of passing time and an ephemeral focus on hearing and disappearing.