I predict a hot summer. And, thanks to ECM, which has just released the first international major label recording of Morton Feldman’s Violin and Orchestra -- the most impressive, and startlingly least known, of all major American violin concertos -- we have a new aural sunscreen that is dry, clean, clear and with an SPF number in the stratosphere.
A study in stillness and stirring, the score is a brilliant companion to a warm day. I’ve already used this mysteriously alluring labyrinth of strange sounds as a stimulating alert to dawn, as dazed transport during mid-day sun and as an evening’s big event.
Written in 1979 and lasting 50 minutes, this is the last and the largest of Feldman’s works for solo instrument and orchestra. It belongs to his quiet, long, minimalist late works (the composer died at 61 in 1986). There is nothing like it.
The notes to the outstanding new recording, which features the German violinist Carolin Widmann and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Emilio Pomàrco, call Violin and Orchestra an anti-concerto, because the soloist sits with the orchestra and doesn’t participate in virtuoso pyrotechnics. Instead, Feldman uses the solo violin to explore, surrounded by a very large orchestra, interior sound worlds.
Tiny musical events repeat, fracture and compete for attention. Patience is required but after a while, the events no longer seem so small. You keep thinking something is going to happen, until you realize that the anticipation and incident are one in the same, and when you feel very alive.