"When you think of two American composers exhibiting extremes in method and aesthetics, 20th century giants Morton Feldman and Milton Babbitt are certainly a good example. There are no two men with more opposite views on music and expression. You might think therefore that listening to their music side by side would automatically turn off 50% of the audience. You’d be wrong.
The New York based Phoenix Ensemble has paired Feldman's Clarinet and String Quartet and the world premiere recording of Babbitt's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, and the result shows their deep musical connections. Each benefits from the other’s perspective on texture, color, and time-flow.
Feldman's suspended transparency next to Babbitt's equally striking gnarliness complement one another, and provide a compelling case for the importance and influence of these composers to the American music
scene in recent decades.
The Phoenix Ensemble, with the approval and guidance of Mr. Babbitt, provides a first look into his largely unknown masterwork, and an equally enlightening performance of Feldman's poignantly expressive music." (label info)
Mozart?s concerto actually began life as a concerto for basset horn (not basset clarinet) and was written in the key of G. The manuscript ended abruptly after the 191st measure of the first movement. Mozart rethought his plan, decided to recast the concerto in A, and overhauled the solo part for basset clarinet, an instrument developed by his friend Anton Stadler The version that entered the repertoire after Mozart?s death was an adaptation of the original.
On this album by clarinetist Julian Bliss, the titular work refers to gumboot dancing, South African miners' dances that during the apartheid era conveyed coded meanings as well as joy in the face of enormous hardship. A look at YouTube will reveal plenty of examples of a form that has been little known outside South Africa. Composer David Bruce's clarinet quintet falls into two parts, an untitled slow "Part One" (track 1) that presumably sets the dark scene of the mine, followed by a second part consisting of five dances.
One of the characteristics of Morton Feldman's music is the way silences are thrown into stark relief. Each silence - freighted with memory, charged with expectation - becomes a unique presence in the music more than merely an absence of it. Though his silences are measured in units of time, they also contain an intimation of infinity. The music of the "classical" tradition slows down, speeds up, layers and otherwise manipulates time. Of the other arts, only cinema plays with our temporal perception to a greater degree.