Morton Feldman
Viola in My Life


The late American composer Morton Feldman operated “at the heart of 20th- century modernism,” said Paul Driver in the London Times. A pioneer of music based on chance and indeterminacy, Feldman constantly experimented with nonstandard styles, favoring improvisation over composition while managing to avoid “all the isms.” This four-movement, 39-minute suite, written from August 1970 to March 1971, is easily his most accessible piece, said Steve Smith in The New York Times. Since Feldman typically aimed for “life-changing” compositions that often “stretched over static durations of an hour, 90 minutes, even five or six hours,” he took the music community by surprise with these “short, sublime works.” Performed here by violist Marek Konstantynowicz and the Cikada Ensemble, these subdued pieces are “deliberately paced and exactingly controlled” rather than expansive. Feldman seems to do little but say much, said John Kelman in The first three “starkly compelling” melodies use quiet instrumentation; the last actually incorporates a full orchestra. But even then, Feldman “rarely resorts to bold, dramatic statements.” His compositions reveal their quiet power in the “subtlest orchestration, the sparest melodic fragment, and the true rewards of delayed gratification.”