Essential Feldman

The concert on April 7, 2018 at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague, will feature the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra with soloists from New York and Belgium in a program dedicated to the music of one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th Century, Morton Feldman (1926 ­– 1987). At the start of his career in early 1950s, Feldman belonged to a group of composers, known today as the New York School (John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and Christian Wolff). He was closely associated with artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston and Robert Rauschenberg. In stark contrast to the prevailing new music of his time, Feldman compositions were based on a concept of soft, quiet sound, and uncommon colors. Feldmans extensive oeuvre includes iconic works in all areas of music performance – compositions for symphony orchestra, chamber music, instrumental and vocal solos, as well as the opera Neither on the libretto by Samuel Beckett. The conductor, Petr Kotik was associated with Feldman for a considerable time. The piano solo will be performed by Daan Vandewalle (Belgium), and the violin solo by Conrad Harris (New York).

There could hardly be a more authentic performance of Feldmans compositions than what will be heard on April 7th at DOX.  Petr Kotik has been associated with Feldman since 1971, when they both lived and worked in Buffalo, New York. Kotik had already been performing Feldmans music in Prague in the early 1960s before moving to the U.S. in 1969. In 1973, Feldman composed Instruments I for Kotik and his S.E.M. Ensemble. As a conductor, Petr Kotik has performed and recorded all of Feldmans orchestral works, mainly during the “Ostrava Days” festival (Ostrava, Czech Republic), which began in 2001. On March 25, 2018, Kotik and the S.E.M. Ensemble will perform Feldmans masterpiece, the 5-hour long For Philip Guston, at Berlins MaerzMusik festival (produced by Berliner Festspiele). SEM is presently the only group in the world performing this giant composition.

The evening at DOX will be dedicated to music by Morton Feldman for large orchestra. It is a unique program, since it is solely dedicated to Feldmans symphonic works. It includes Feldmans first notated composition for orchestra, Structures, (1960-62), as well as Piano and Orchestra (1975), and Violin and Orchestra (1979). The extreme virtuosity of Violin and Orchestra lies not only in the solo violin part, but also in the coordination between the orchestra, the soloist and the conductor. Petr Kotik conducted a similar program, with Janacek Philharmonic in 2012 at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center (The New York Times commented on this performance: “… shimmering constellation of sonic events, the concerts clear highlight was the American premiere, “Violin and Orchestra” (1979)… Beguiling in its ceaseless variability, the piece presented constant reminders of Feldmans sophisticated handling of timbre. …the players provided lucid support.)