Morton Feldman - Routine Investigations etc. (1994), 8/10


Although it may not be the most ambitious set of compositions from Feldman, these are some of the most charming and one of the most immediately enjoyable recordings of Feldman's works. This assembly of compositions and these particular performances have an exceptional flow; the recording succeeds in creating a unique atmosphere as usual, but one that's beauty soars above the rest. "The Viola in My Life" was composed especially for Karen Phillips, a performer at Hawaii University, consisting of varied combinations with the viola and other instruments in unique arrangements. The ensemble's playing is extraordinarily stunning of course, showing an emotional range across these tracks that is unparalleled in modern classical music. The composition techniques are abnormally literal for Feldman, allowing for less individual interpretation, but also resulting in a more focused and intentional listening experience that I personally find more enjoyable. Yet we still get the Feldman experience in that these compositions require your undivided attention, leading to a penetrating and permeating listening arc for its audience. There exists the ever-charming instrumentation and sonic qualities of the best Feldman recordings, reminiscent of The California EAR Unit’s For Philip Guston in more ways than one, but with a more intimately captivating structure and more clearly fluid set of dynamics from one piece to the next. Things open with one of Feldman’s most compactly powerful, unique and engrossing compositions in “Routine Investigations”, with its sprawling build and gently eerie narrative, followed by the modestly beautiful yet impressively sweeping and boundless “The Viola In My Life”, and closed with the handsomely sparse and vocally seductive “I Met Heine on the Rue F├╝rstenberg”. There is an unambiguous, distinct constitution to these pieces that is exalted by this ensemble’s performances, unmatched by any other recording of Feldman, or any other modern composer for that matter. Any great Feldman recording requires a fundamental understanding of indeterminate composition from each performer, and this is no exception, as this ensemble has assembled a masterpiece of passionate yet unvarnished interpretation of score.