Carlson and Karis Conquer Feldman’s For John Cage

Review by: David Hurwitz

FeldmanCage

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

For John Cage is (in this performance) a 72-minute work for violin and piano. Like Feldman’s “carpet” pieces, it consists of repetitive patterns that slowly evolve over time, all at a very quiet dynamic level.  Playing Feldman’s late, long works, requires tremendous concentration as well as hair trigger timing from both soloists. There’s an elusive intensity running through this seemingly static music that these players seem to capture especially well.

It’s not just that Karis, one of the best contemporary music pianists around, judges the piece’s resonance and silences with unfailing accuracy. Violinist Erik Carlson plays with unusually attractive tone and what sounds like supernatural intonation. The result falls more pleasantly on the ear than is often the case–certainly more so than in hat[now]ARTs competing version with Josie Ter Haar and John Snijders, fine as that is also. But then, it depends to some extent on how softly you play the disc.

Bridge’s engineering, as in all of its Feldman recordings, is absolutely state-of-the-art: perfectly balanced, sensitively placed, and dead silent. Even at low volume the timbres have substance. Like the music of its dedicatee, Feldman could be maddening in the bare minimum of musical material employed, especially in this work (despite the fact that you never know what octave its few pitches might show up in). Somehow, these players keep you guessing, and keep you listening.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This One

  • Erik Carlson (violin); Aleck Karis (piano)

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