For nearly 80 minutes, music lovers can escape the world as we know it and disappear into Morton Feldman’s universe of now.
Its arid landscape, curiously infused with celestial mist (the piano’s pedal is open even as the string quartet members employ their mutes—at times to numbing effect) with its overarching feeling of ”lost,” can be most personally savoured with headphones, allowing listeners to become at one with composer and players alike.
The two main ingredients—an arpeggio that eventually seeks the comfort of a perfect fifth and a whole-tone step that brings new meaning to the word relentless—are propelled along this incredible journey by endless repetitions and frequently changing time signatures. Feldman uses the latter to subtly ensure that his elements always have something new to say despite their similarities.
The Eclipse Quartet is more than up to the challenge of keeping focused virtually every step of the way, with only a few “speech” problems in the dozen upon dozen of harmonics that comprise much of their “chordal” work. Absolutely incredible is the collective result (no easy task given the constant shifts in voicing from Feldman’s unstoppable imagination) where the four performers morph into a single entity to balance, challenge or nearly mock (the hinted at rebellion can’t overcome the keyboard’s quiet dominance) the piano.
Pianist Vicki Ray is a model of control, shading and “ring.” Her surety of touch and steadfast rhythm add much to the mesmerizing effects even as her colleagues manage breathless solo harmonics and ideally punctuated pizzicati.
The strings try to strike out on their own but can never escape the piano’s spell, with a high-register, pedal E-flat pulling them like a siren call back to their “place.”
Anyone who has mulled an idea over and over and over and over again—equally fascinated by how it won’t sit still and assuaged with its apparent constancy—will savour a leisurely stroll down Feldman’s path. Those who don’t have time to deeply reflect won’t last five minutes, having something much more important to do like telling their social media followers where they are going for lunch. JWR