Boomkat Product Review:
A defiant new recording of one of Morton Feldman's most disarming compositions, Apartment House's 'Violin and String Quartet' captures the icy character of the instruments, melting time into fuzzed memory.
When Feldman began producing durational works in the late 1970s, he managed to confound even his most dedicated friends and followers. Steve Reich famously lost touch with his cohort during this period, later regretting it when he gave the compositions time to sink in - he eventually conceded that 1985's 'Piano and String Quartet' was "the most beautiful work of his that I know."
'Violin and String Quartet' was written the same year, only two years before Feldman died, and evolves slowly, lasting two and a quarter hours. This fresh interpretation from Apartment House is different from previous recordings, close-miking each instrument to emphasize the tiny variations in sound: the little earthquakes that lend drama to the composition's watery flow. One of Feldman's prettiest pieces, it's aptly elevated by Apartment House's refined technique.
If you heard the ensemble's rendition of 'Piano and String Quartet' from 2021, 'Violin and String Quartet' is a worthy follow-up. Their expertise with NYC minimalism is well documented at this point, and feeds into the effortlessness they exude while soldiering through the piece's duration. Billowing clouds of harmony replace any expected "vocal" themes, and the piece hangs in the air, reshaping time rather than commanding attention. Apartment House use microscopic magnification to help us perceive Feldman's original vision; the composer was obsessed with natural reverb and the physical decay of his instrumentation, and gave the composition plenty of negative space for these elements to bleed into the foreground. Here, Apartment House treat the pauses with reverence, leaving the echoes and traces to imprint themselves into the recording.
Melodies and phrases twist into bubbling whirlpools of bowed fluctuations that appear and reappear throughout the piece, rhyming with previous segments and creating disarming pockets of sonic deja vu. Feldman asks us to reconsider the act of listening, lulling us into an elevated state. Apartment House give us the experience of hearing the music as if in the same room, concentrating on the bows on the strings and how they interact with the environment. It's a form of meditation that requires focus, but also an ability to release yourself from temporal concerns for a couple of hours - right now, that's never been more important.