Feldman/Tilbury/Smith Quartet: For John Cage; Piano and String Quartet | CD review

(Matchless Recordings, DVD)

In 2006, the Huddersfield ­Contemporary Music festival focused on Morton ­Feldman, one of the few important composers of the second half of the 20th century whose music has not been featured at the festival for a decade. At the centre of this belated tribute was a survey of Feldman's works for piano and strings, spread across several recitals, with pianist John Tilbury and the ­members of the Smith Quartet. They were extraordinary experiences, a ­reminder that at their finest Feldman's late works inhabit a world quite unlike that of any other composer, and this disc is the first in a planned series of three to be taken from those concerts. The recordings are presented on an audio-only DVD, which may present problems for some listeners, but does allow Feldman's timeless musical canvases to be heard as unbroken spans. Each of the works here, For John Cage from 1982, for violin and piano, and the 1985 Piano and String Quartet, lasts just under 90 ­minutes and each casts its own ­distinctive spell, spun from the slenderest ­music resources – a bundle of ­skeletal melodies, a few harmonic scraps – within a dynamic range that rarely rises beyond pianissimo.

• This article was amended on 10 March 2010. The original asserted that the music of Feldman had not previously been featured at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. This has been corrected.

Andrew Clememts

The GuardianTramp

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