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April 12   -   Guardian

Feldman: Three Voices CD review – an exquisite act of musical remembrance

Juliet Fraser (Hat[now]ART)

Recordings of Morton Feldman’s late music, those pieces of increasing length and quiet intensity that he composed in the last decade of his life from 1977 onwards, have proliferated in recent years. His works for solo piano and for piano and strings have been particularly well covered, but a few of the more singular works seem to have slipped through the net. One of those rarities is Feldman’s last work for solo voice. Paradoxically it’s called Three Voices, for the soprano soloist is accompanied by two pre-recorded versions of herself to create the haunting three-part textures.

It was composed in 1982, not long after the death of the painter Philip Guston. Even though, two years later, Feldman would produce one of his longest pieces, the four-and-a-half-hour For Philip Guston, as a memorial to his one-time close friend, Three Voices seems a more immediate and spontaneous act of remembrance, both of Guston (from whom Feldman was estranged at the time of the artist’s death) and also of another friend, the poet Frank O’Hara, who died in 1966. One of Feldman’s starting points seems to have been the symbolism of having one live voice shadowed by the two “dead” ones captured on tape, and a sense of keening and loss pervades the entire piece as the entwined voices repeat phrases with constantly shifting emphases, until they freeze into exquisite dissonances before setting off in another direction with another gently varied phrase.

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