Record of the Day: Aki Takahashi, "Plays Morton Feldman"

Record of the Day: Aki Takahashi, “Plays Morton Feldman”

Aki Takahashi
Plays Morton Feldman (Cd Mode 54)

A musical figure of great influence in the twentieth century, the American composer Morton Feldman belongs to the so-called «New
York School” which from the mid-1950s revolutionized the American musical world by rethinking every parameter of the compositional world from the foundations, introducing new types of notation, experimenting with chance and indeterminacy, overturning every stylistic certainty.

The most prominent exponents of this artistic collective were John Cage and Feldman, but the latter demonstrated from his first compositions that he possessed a strong personality independent of that of his friends (some of whom were also his teachers). His music inhabits a timeless region, where the dynamics almost always take place on the edge of pianissimo, with large areas of silence in which sparse sounds vibrate creating enchanted and seductive atmospheres; in his scores there are few expressive signs but it is necessary to be a first-rate interpreter to be able to decipher them appropriately, restoring all the sensitivity contained in them.

In the case of Feldman's piano work one can hardly find better performances than the performances of Aki Takahashi, a Japanese pianist who has worked extensively with Feldman and knows every detail of his style like perhaps no one else.
The performer is required to have absolute control of the touch and the ability to create a thousand different dynamic gradations, often with almost imperceptible differences; Aki's magical hands seem to have been created precisely for this purpose.

The album starts from youthful compositions such as the “Illusions” of 1949-50, still partially influenced by the style of his teacher Stefan Wolpe, continuing with pieces now considered cornerstones of the Avant-garde such as “Piano Piece
1955″ and “Extensions 3”, to reach the extraordinary pages of “Piano” and “Palais de Mari” (one of the last pieces he managed to finish before his untimely death in 1987).

Feldman's music requires listening focused on every little detail; it goes against the stereotypes that make contemporary music unpleasant, even if it doesn't give in an inch to any superficiality; It may perhaps cost you a little initial effort, but it will open up panoramas of great beauty.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.