By Matt F.
That poor orchestra! The typical perception of a virtuoso, (think Paganini or Liszt or someone from that crowd) and images come to mind of the tortured emotional musician, showboating with grand gestures, sawing away with their bow or thrusting back and forth with arms in the air, but many a musician will tell you that it’s actually harder to play slow than it is to play fast. And if we were to take that to be true than Morton Feldman’s Violin Concerto must be one of the toughest piece of music out there. Imagine the middle movement from the Sibelius Violin Concerto (average running time: 8 1/2 minutes) and having someone slow it down and stretch it out to the point where it lasts just under 51 minutes and then you may have an idea of what Feldman had to achieve here. His concerto is essentially one long, gently arching melody with a soft, delicate orchestral backdrop. Even long time fans of ECM recordings will be impressed by the wonderfully glacial aspects of this piece.
I would have to say though, for all it’s inherent difficulty, violinist Carolin Widmann along with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra handle it all with grace and élan, as if this were the type of music they were born to play. Never once did I feel either were faltering under the pressure, nor did it ever sound like a chore. All parties seemed to be genuinely enjoying the task at hand (perhaps because they knew they were so good and this recording would be proof that they could take on some of the most truly difficult pieces of the 20th century).
Listeners familiar with Feldman know that his music operates in a different sound spectrum from most other composers. He is in direct contrast to the Stravinskys and Shostakovitches out there, but that’s what makes Feldman such a gem, no one did quite like him.