April 13, 2009
MUSIC REVIEW | RED LIGHT NEW MUSIC
Linking Composers by Contrast and Affinity
By STEVE SMITH
At first brush Morton Feldman and Beat Furrer do not seem temperamentally suited to sharing a concert. Mr. Feldman, a New York composer who developed his style during the 1950s and died in 1987, is best remembered for the expansive works of his late years: sweeping glaciers that seem practically motionless but glisten with subtle plays of light and shade. Mr. Furrer, a Swiss-Austrian composer born in 1954, works in sudden gestures, frantic motion and stark silences.
But there is a connection between them, which the contemporary-classical ensemble Red Light New Music set out to illustrate in a well-attended concert at the Chelsea Art Museum on Friday night. In a program note Liam Robinson, a composer and a director of Red Light, discussed Mr. Furrer’s discovery of Feldman’s 1986 piece “Coptic Light.” What Mr. Furrer found there, Mr. Robinson related, was “the capacity and power within music to create a simultaneous sense of stasis and continuous movement.”
You could use the same words to describe Minimalism, which also has a place in Mr. Furrer’s nervous system, to judge by two 1997 works played here. In “a due,” Erin Wight’s viola scrabbled, hissed and yawned over Yegor Shevtsov’s steadily percolating piano figures. Unanticipated pauses cleared the air, and the music resumed with subtle changes in tint or inflection.
“Presto con fuoco” had Natacha Diels, a flutist, and David Broome, a pianist, in a similar relationship, with the piano gradually encroaching on the flute’s territory. All four of these sure-handed players brought out the enigmatic beauty of Mr. Furrer’s wiry constructions.
Ms. Wight and Mr. Shevtsov also gave an engrossing account of Feldman’s fragile 1970 work “The Viola in My Life III.” Alone, Mr. Shevtsov offered a gracious performance of Mr. Feldman’s “Last Pieces,” a transitional creation from 1959.
Further conjoining the composers were two playful films by Bady Minck. Both had been screened nearly a week earlier during a concert by Klangforum Wien, a new-music ensemble founded by Mr. Furrer.
“Being and Nothingness” showed Mr. Furrer plucking a copy of Schumann’s “Novelette” No. 8 from an antiquarian shop, then magically distorting it into his own “Ein Lied, das Über das Ende des Liedes Hinaus ein Anderes Ende Finden Wollte” (“A Song That Aimed to Find Another Ending Beyond the End of the Song”). In “Schein Sein” (“Seems to Be”) Ms. Minck pans across a desk cluttered with significant Feldman cues — a Mondrian painting, a rug pattern, the voice of John Cage — before playing perceptional games to the tune of Mr. Feldman’s “Madame Press Died Last Week at 90.”
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company