Ravishing Morton Feldman from Sabine Liebner

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Morton Feldman’s sparse, fragile, meticulously calibrated, and singularly sonorous piano output attracts more and more pianists on disc, including Sabine Liebner, whose sonically and interpretively gorgeous recordings of For Bunita Marcus, Palais de Mari, and Triadic Memories on Oehms Classics are points of reference. She completes her Feldman piano cycle with an equally desirable two-disc collection of the composer’s early pieces. It includes just about everything that Feldman wrote for piano solo between 1950 and 1964, excepting the 1949/50 set of four Illusions.

Listeners familiar with the lengthy, introspective piano works from Feldman’s later years may find the time scale of his briefer, more compact earlier works better suited to his style. At the same time, the half-hour long Piano from 1977 contains more overtly dramatic gestures and dynamic extremes that put both the notes and their residual resonance on equal footing. For this reason the Bavarian Radio production’s closely detailed yet atmospheric sonics factor into the performance’s riveting impact, along with Liebner’s finely tuned gradations of touch and her pinpoint observation of Feldman’s meticulous articulations and rests.

She may not capture the implicit lilt and melodic trajectory that John Tilbury conveys in certain miniatures like Vertical Thoughts 4, or the 1954 Three Pieces, but her sterner conceptions are no less valid. In one earlier review I likened both of these Feldman pianists to conductors, saying that Liebner is Klemperer to Tilbury’s Beecham. A clear-cut preference for one pianist over the other is impossible, except that the Tilbury cycle is not easy to find. But don’t expect that Liebner’s Feldman recordings will be around forever. If you have the slightest interest, don’t hesitate; buy them now.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one; Tilbury (LondonHALL)

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