FLUX Quartet - Feldman Edition 6: String Quartet No. 2 (2002), 9/10

Feldman's colossal, eternal, and transcendent string quartet redefines continuous emotive power. The one hundred and twenty four page composition is a challenge, but one worth every single breath and whisper. This string quartet echoes many of Feldman's most recognizable characteristics in composition, but it excels in its complexity while offering the greatest breadth of any of his works. This is elevated by the performance that shows an admirable attention to detail, color, and tasteful restraint. As the recording progresses, the experience becomes more and more visual and separates itself from any other, partially due to the continually varied pace and palette, but also admittedly because of its invasive length. The experience becomes meditative but consistently reaches out towards us to make a meaningful connection during moments of repetition and throughout a broad range of motifs. These themes and sounds are constantly changing, proving challenging but equally rewarding. The recording feels more like an organism than an object, constantly evolving and changing, even having its own considerable stay of life yet echoing itself in repetitions. Still, this strength will alienate those who are beholden to the traditional methodology of composition or the existing structures for music, especially of classical composition. Feldman redefined and recontextualized these processes with much of his music, his string quartet here being the prime example and his most grandiose. The piece is at its best when consumed all at once, but since this can be unrealistic for many, it can be broken down into digestible rivers for a taste of feeling before diving into the ocean that is the entire recording as intended. Ideally, the disc provides the best experience, but a digital copy can be great as well, particularly for analyzing its parts. This can be dangerous, however, as without a broader context, an affiliation with Feldman's previous interactions with space and atonal structures, or the preceding instances of intertwined melody, moments of brilliance can be lost and their impact stifled. This is exemplified by some of the recording's most clearly moving sections occupying significant space without presenting an obviously enchanting or immediately colorful appearance. These feelings gradually evolve and provide an insidiously progressive sensation rather than a clear motivation.

Pointing to any one moment of the recording as more important than another is largely useless, as they all communicate and dance together to create the greater experience, but there are more obvious moments of appeal in pages 5-9, 20-31, 69-73, 89-93, and 105-109 which become increasingly joyful with new context. The recurring themes bring out moments of joy, the constant evolution brings out feelings of pride, and the space leaves room for interpretive introspection; ultimately much of the music here will be deeply personal due to the nature of its ambitions and scope. This means the picture that the recording paints can vary with each listener and with time, giving it an even deeper scope of meaning. Someone dealing with the joys of life will see and experience a very different piece of art than one in the midst of tragedy. Yet some of Feldman's ideas are tangible enough to remain unchanged, considering its composition in the early eighties this is remarkable. While the music can take one into the hopefulness of what lies ahead it can equally become a capsule of the past. Herein lies another challenge of this music, however, in that the characteristics of elusiveness and abstraction make this personal experience almost too dependent on the listener for deeper meaning. Fortunately, humanity and its parts are complex enough to warrant such an exploration and a celebration of beauty. The concepts of desire, passion, loneliness, love, and consciousness itself are flirted with and their implications are endless. The sounds themselves echo these concepts through a masterful craftsman's mind and are translated flawlessly from paper to passionate performance. The story ranges from hope to anxiety to emptiness to redemption, intermittently closing and opening new chapters of life and reminding us of its frailty and its strength in repeated phrases. The unobvious exploration of philosophy in sound from the quartet can feel empty or overwhelmingly dense, echoing the dichotomous complexity of the piece itself and chorusing its contradictions in a seesaw of symmetry and asymmetry, of grotesque and magnificently statuesque. All of these feelings, however, are filtered and flow from Feldman through the quartet, and most importantly through us as the audience, an intentional recognition of our humanity from the composer and the interpreters. This means the music itself will have an integrity of emotive meaning that is largely unique to you, yet its beauty is undeniably universal.