Morton Feldman: Violin and Orchestra

Carolin Widmann, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Emilio Pomàrico

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Carolin Widmann’s widely acclaimed ECM recordings have traversed a broad arc of music – from Schubert to Xenakis. Here she turns her attention to one of the pivotal compositions of Morton Feldman. Violin and Orchestra, composed in 1979, marked a new direction, with an almost painterly attention to detail in slowly unfolding music. It is not a concerto in the strict sense of the term, not soloist with orchestral support. The violinist must move inside the glowing colour-field of sound. In this landmark Feldman recording, Widmann does so with great delicacy and feeling, exploring the subtle orchestral texture, crafted together with conductor Emilio Pomàrico and the players of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Carolin Widmanns viel gerühmte ECM-Aufnahmen haben einen breiten musikalischen Bogen gespannt – von Schubert bis Xenakis. Hier richtet sie ihre Konzentration auf eines der zentralen Werke von Morton Feldman. Violin and Orchestra, 1979 komponiert, markierte mit seinem besonderen Augenmerk für Details in sich langsam entfaltender Musik eine neue Richtung für den Komponisten. Es ist dies kein Konzert im strengen Wortsinn, hier agiert kein Solist zur Orchesterbegleitung. Vielmehr muss sich der Violinist innerhalb eines glühenden Farbfelds aus Klängen bewegen. Carolin Widmann gelingt dies in dieser bahnbrechenden Feldman-Aufnahme mit großem Feingefühl, sie erforscht, gemeinsam mit dem Dirigenten Emilio Pomàrico und den Musikern des Frankfurter Radio-Sinfonie-Orchesters, mit großer Delikatesse die subtilen Orchestertexturen des Werks.
Featured Artists Recorded

October 2009, Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks, Frankfurt

  • 1Violin and Orchestra
    (Morton Feldman)
    50:39
Carolin Widmann’s widely acclaimed ECM New Series recordings have traversed a broad arc of music – from Schubert to Xenakis. Her award-winning album of contemporary music “Phantasy of Spring”, released in 2009, opened with Morton’s Feldman’s “Spring of Chosroes”; now she returns to Feldman with one of the US composer’s pivotal compositions, Violin and Orchestra, written in 1979. With its almost painterly attention to detail and to texture, this slowly unfolding single-movement work marked a new direction in Feldman’s music. It is not a concerto in the strict sense of the term, not soloist with orchestral support. The violinist must move inside the glowing colour-field of sound. In this exceptional Feldman recording, Widmann does so with great delicacy and feeling, exploring the subtle orchestral texture, crafted together with conductor Emilio Pomàrico and the players of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

“In the noisiest century in history,” critic Alex Ross has noted, “Morton Feldman chose to be glacially slow and snowily soft. [In his music] chords arrive one after another, in seemingly haphazard sequence, interspersed with silences. Harmonies hover in a no man’s land between consonance and dissonance, paradise and oblivion.” Violin and Orchestra calls for the largest instrumentation Feldman specified – including quadruple and triple winds and brass, four percussionists, two harps, two pianos and a corresponding body of strings. Yet the work is quiet, dreamlike.

“Feldman is a great favourite of mine,” says Carolin Widmann. “His music has in my opinion not only contemporary but everlasting relevance for its unique language and the ways in which it seems to suspend time, to freeze it. Sometimes when I listen to Feldman I’m unsure if a few minutes or half an eternity has passed. As one enters into its spatial dimension you stop thinking about where this music has come from and where it is headed and you become part of it. And that opens up philosophical questions. How does this music change us, as listeners?”

“As a player, you have to immerse yourself in the Feldman cosmos. In Violin and Orchestra, the violin is first among equals. What Feldman brings out of the instrument in terms of sound and colour is very beautiful. But it’s by no means a piece for demonstrating instrumental capacity. This concept is completely abolished (in my view it could usefully be challenged in much classical and Romantic repertoire, too). To play Feldman, you have to take a back seat and make sure that all expression is solely in the service of the music. That’s also a kind of spiritual exercise, and one that obliges the violinist to question the parameters of personal style, peeling away all superfluous gesture.”

Violin and Orchestra was premiered by Paul Zukofsky and the Hessian Radio Orchestra with Cristóbal Halfter conducting, in Frankfurt in 1984. The present recording, with Carolin Widmann and the Frankfurter Radio Orchestra, was aided by the support of the Festival d’Automne à Paris, who also presented the work in the autumn of 2009.
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