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Morton Feldman - For Bunita Marcus

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Artist: Morton Feldman

Album: For Bunita Marcus

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Oct. 18, 2007

On his recording of a collection of works for piano by Erik Satie, Reinbert de Leeuw leaves his mark on the pieces by drawing out each composition, elongating the spaces between notes and adding a sense of monumentality to the music. Some regard de Leeuw’s interpretation of Satie as revelatory, while others staunchly disagree, but, either way, it’s a clear illustration of the effect the personality of a performer can have on the music they’re playing. Pianist Stephane Ginsburgh seems not to have issue with such concerns on his performance of Morton Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus, stating “You realize how useless it is to try to act, to push his music against its own will.”

On this disc, in which Ginsburgh plays one of Feldman’s last works for solo piano, the negative space between notes becomes an important part of the composition, though never at the expense of the piano’s sound. For Bunita Marcus can be a dramatic work, but make no mistake, the drama is inherent in the music, not its interpretation.

Like much of Feldman’s late oeuvre, For Bunita Marcus unfolds subtly and softly, with small rhythmic repetitions or melodic fragments appearing slowly, often a challenge unless they manifest in multiple recurrences. But even when the music moves in an apparently more random stream, there’s a sense of purposefulness to its trajectory, and while any sense of a traditional pathos comes quite late in the piece (a simple, but, by the time it arrives, very effective, melodic mini-theme, gone as suddenly as it appears), Feldman’s slow, methodical composition effectively inspires a meditative contemplation, and Ginsburgh’s patient performance does the writing justice.

For Bunita Marcus has been recorded and released previously by a number of pianists, and for Feldman enthusiasts, Ginsburgh’s expression of the piece may not supercede, for instance, that of John Tilbury’s 1985 All Piano in the accepted canon of performances. The Sub Rosa disc, though, is the first issue of the piece in more than five years, and, if not the definitive performance of one of Feldman’s last works, a well-executed interpretation of a rich and rewarding composition.

By Adam Strohm

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