For Bunita Marcus
Louis Goldstein, Piano
Nuscope Records (CD + digital download)
For those of us who love Morton Feldman’s music, this is a great time since many recordings of his extensive oeuvre exist. For some of his more “popular” works, such as Triadic Memories, Rothko Chapel, Patterns in a Chromatic Field and For Bunita Marcus, multiple recordings exist. In the case of Triadic Memories, all of the recordings are distinctive, since Feldman did not provide his usual metronome marking of “quartet note = 63-66,” and many interpretations abound. Among the many recordings of TM, my personal favorite remains that of Louis Goldstein, who performed the piece much slower than anyone else I’ve heard, and really got at the central core of the piece, at least for me. Granted-slower isn’t always better, but just like Reinbert de Leeuw’s amazing and unique performances of Satie’s piano music, slower tempi can bring out nuances that faster tempi cannot. In the case of his recording of Triadic Memories, it isn’t that Goldstein starts so much slower than everyone else, it’s that he stays consistent with his tempo selection throughout-at least one other recording starts about as slow, but then speeds up inexplicably during some of the longer sustained tones. In other words, Goldstein picked a slower tempo, and appropriately stuck with it throughout the work.
So I was especially interested in Louis Goldstein’s recent release of Feldman’s late work For Bunita Marcus. I already have a few recordings of the piece, performed by Markus Hinterhäuser, Steffen Schieiermacher and Hildegard Kleeb, all of which are excellent, and all of which run between 1h 11′ and just under 1h 13′. The fact that all three of my recordings are by Europeans attests to how more pervasive Feldman’s music has been in Europe than in the US, which is Europe’s gain and our loss here in the states. Goldstein actually clocks in slightly faster at 1h 7′. On listening, this really is not a noticeable speedup. What distinguishes Goldstein’s performance from the others, I think, is the amount of resonance he gets from his piano. There are sections where some of the resultant chords hang for a second or two, giving an effect that I hadn’t noticed that much in other recordings, and one I happened to like.
In the end, Goldstein’s performance is extremely faithful to the score, metrically perfect, and extremely musical. For Bunita Marcus is deceptively simple-it looks pretty simple to play (unlike the metric complexity of Triadic Memories and the even more formidable Piano from 1977), but is extremely difficult in reality. Listening to it, however, is not at all difficult, but a great pleasure. This is an excellent recording and stands among the best ones out there. I’d also be very interested in hearing Goldstein perform Piano, which I think is among Feldman’s best works. It’s not performed as much as the other late piano works, probably because it is extremely difficult to play and perhaps less approachable for many listeners.