Rothko Chapel - Morton Feldman / Erik Satie / John Cage
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This album addresses a network of musical relationships and inspirations. It opens with Morton Feldmans Rothko Chapel, named for the Houston, TX multi-faith chapel built to house Mark Rothkos site-specific paintings.
Feldman considered that his music lay between categories, between time and space, between painting and music, and described the score as his canvas.
Amongst his most important influences were abstract painters, his friend Rothko prominent among them. (Rothko, for his part, yearned to raise painting to the level of music and poetry.) Feldman was also liberated by the freewheeling example of John Cages work. The main influence from Cage was a green light, Feldman said. It was permission, the freedom to do what I wanted. Cage, the most relentless of 20th century experimentalists, didnt acknowledge what he called an ABC model of influence but always had a special fondness for Satie, a musical inventor of good-humored originality with whom he could identify.
Kim Kashkashian negotiates the subtle, glowing textures of Feldmans planes of sound, joined by Sarah Rothenberg on celeste, and supported by percussion and choir.
Rothenberg, on piano, plays Saties Gnossiennes and Cages Inner Landscape, and the Houston Chamber Choir sings Cages Four, Five and more.
May 22-23, 2012 at Stude Hall in Alice Pratt Brown Hall, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston
Feb. 1-2, 2013 at the Asia Society, Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater, Houston
Produced by Judith Sherman
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Top Customer Reviews
(In July of 2006 I visited the Rothko Chapel, which is part of the Menil Collection. It is a dark space, with the very dark Rothkos on the walls -- it feels more like a crypt, or a bomb shelter, than a chapel, but it is still active, with various events sponsored by any and all religions, including events promoting peace.)
The exquisite "Rothko Chapel" alone would be an utterly uncharacteristic introduction to Feldman. Fortunately, in that sense, this disc also includes "Why Patterns?", which is an excellent and far more representative piece. From 1978, for flute, glockenspiel and piano, it unfolds like a delicate spiral, invoking a sense of wonder.
As a reminder that packages might as well be attractive too, New Albion uses Rothko's "Red Over Dark Blue on Dark Gray" (1961) for the cover -- perfecto!
Rothko Chapel is Feldman at his most immediately approachable. The "painting-like" or "canvas-like" quality of Feldman's music is of course here, and a deep understanding of Rothko's paintings is all-permeating (although the work is in no sense a auditory illustration of Rothko's paintings in the sense of, say, Mussorgsky) - indeed, the piece exhibits much the same ethereal effects as Rothko's paintings, down to the almost tune-like apotheosis of the final movement. Why Patterns? is a more "difficult" work in the sense that it requires some more concentration on the part of the listener to reveal its qualities; it is a play with musical lines - disconnected series of patterns for the three instruments that are never really aligned and do not even work together before the very end of the work. It is a quietly contemplative, almost meditative, work, intricate and complex yet devoid of outward tension or drama.
I have nothing negative to say about any of the performances, which seem to realize the spirit and point of these works perfectly (though I admit to not having heard any alternative versions), and sound quality is unobjectionable. All in all, I think this might just be the best possible introduction to Feldman's music (both for newcomers and those like myself who previously never really understood what the fuzz was all about), with the Rothko Chapel being the most immediately approachable and the Why Patterns? a somewhat more challenging experience.