Exaudi review – fine tributes to Morton Feldman

St John’s, Smith Square
In a festival of concerts marking the 90th anniversary of Feldman’s birth, Exaudi’s immaculate performances offered a reminder of why his stature has grown

Morton Feldman is one of the exceptions to the oft-quoted rule that composers’ reputations go into sharp decline in the decades immediately after their deaths. Feldman died in 1987, but he is now regarded as a far more important and influential figure in 20th-century music than he ever was during his lifetime. The Principal Sound festival is marking the 90th anniversary of his birth with a weekend of concerts exploring that significance. Framed by two of his epic late scores, Piano and String Quartet and For Philip Guston, the programmes place Feldman’s music alongside works he admired as well as pieces by composers who admired and learned from him.

Exaudi’s concert with their conductor James Weeks began with the earliest of Feldman’s published works, Only, a tiny solo-soprano setting from 1947 of a Rilke sonnet. Juliet Fraser perfectly shaped its seamless modal melody. It was followed by James McVinnie’s performance of Feldman’s only work for organ, Principal Sound, which hypnotically layered irregularly pulsing chords and far-flung constellations of notes over long-held dissonances.

The choral works in the lineup, as immaculately presented as we’ve come to expect from Exaudi, included the festival’s only world premiere. Jürg Frey’s Shadow and Echo and Jade created something quietly haunting out of a third-century Chinese text in English translation. Its stanzas were separated with unpredictable silences, and it occasionally blossomed into rich tonal harmony, though always using the full complement of eight voices frugally. Weeks’s own work, A Tear, in which small-scale organ solos separated increasingly elaborate treatments of a short Old English text, was a model of restraint. Aldo Clementi’s Im Frieden Dein, o Herre Mein was an exuberant tangle of close-packed canons. Cassandra Miller’s Guide, a rumbustious celebration of singing, could have learned a lot more from Feldman’s sense of restraint and quiet eloquence.

• The Principal Sound festival ends on 4 April.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Exaudi – review

This bold 10th-birthday programme of madrigals old and new find the young consort in fine, fastidious form, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

23, Oct, 2012 @5:22 PM

Article image
Triadic Memories review – Alexander Melnikov plays Morton Feldman to bewitching effect
Morton Feldman’s hugely demanding solo piano piece, which premiered in London in 1981, gets a finely detailed and highly captivating performance

Andrew Clements

15, Mar, 2015 @4:42 PM

Exaudi/Weeks – review

From late medieval to bang-up-to-the-minute contemporary music, Exaudi and director James Weeks gave another charmingly convincing performance, writes Rian Evans

Rian Evans

09, Apr, 2012 @4:43 PM

Endymion/Exaudi – review
These new pieces revealed an impressive ability to merge conceptualist and musique concrète traditions to convincing effect, writes Guy Dammann

Guy Dammann

20, Sep, 2011 @2:00 PM

Classical review: Exaudi, Parish Church, Leeds

Parish Church, Leeds: Fraser's bell-like tone is modulated with coos and quacks that do indeed sound like a pigeon. Or a wild duck

Alfred Hickling

03, May, 2009 @11:11 PM

Article image
Exaudi review – choral virtuosity
The vocal group gave a clean and confident account of rare pieces by Michael Finnissy and Heinz Hollinger, writes George Hall

George Hall

04, Feb, 2015 @1:26 PM

Exaudi, Blythburgh Church, Suffolk

Blythburgh Church, Suffolk

Andrew Clements

24, Mar, 2008 @12:05 AM

Thaïs – review
Canadian soprano Erin Wall was entirely convincing as both sexual icon and saint, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

19, Aug, 2011 @11:38 AM

Intermezzo – review

This production of Strauss's sardonic portrait of his own marriage under strain is utterly gripping and superbly sung, says Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

09, Jul, 2012 @5:13 PM

Rusalka – review
Musically, you can't fault it. But Still's much-admired theatrical magic didn't, on this occasion, exert so strong a pull as it seemed to have done two years ago, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

26, Jul, 2011 @5:40 PM