Feldman’s 2nd in Portland

On Friday the 24th, around two hundred people took advantage of a rare opportunity to hear at least some of the four hour performance of Feldman’s 2nd string quartet that Third Angle put on in the Ellyn Bye Studio of The Armory in Portland, OR.

The Studio seats about 200, but at no time were there any more than 70 people there, scattered about. On the other hand, there were never any fewer than 30, and the attendance hovered around forty for the duration of this free concert.

In short, only a couple of hundred people in Portland, a largish town, heard even part of a splendid performance of this rarely performed piece. Rare not because it’s hard to listen to–it’s not–but because its length demands such stamina from the players. And only about ten of us, maybe twenty, were there for the whole time, discounting potty breaks. Those four hours went by very quickly, too, for me anyway. So I would like to go on record as saying that at least half of this statement from the program “Late pieces by Morton Feldman are daunting to listeners and performers alike” is simply not true. Daunting to play, may be. Delightful to listen to.

I bought the six hour Flux quartet dvd of this piece several years ago, but have never had the time to devote to listening to the whole thing. So up to 24 February, I had never heard any of this piece, no youtube clips, nothing. I can now say that it’s intimidating length conceals a piece of exquisite charm and delicacy, a truly lovely piece of music made up of many and various short sections, which sometimes segue into each other smoothly, sometimes not. There’s a lot of repetition (less in this four hour version), but there’s a lot of diversity as well, not only from section to section but within each section as well.

Although this was my first hearing of this piece, I cannot imagine it played any more beautifully or perfectly than Third Angle played it. Rich tone, perfect intonation, razor-sharp ensemble, and a palpable love for this lovely music. No praise can be too high for this performance.

Performing were Ron Blessinger and Greg Ewer, violins, Brian Quincey, viola, and Hamilton Cheifetz, cello. The next concert featuring the Third Angle Ensemble will be in the Kridel Grand Ballroom of the Portland Art Museum on 10 March at 19:30.

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