Los Angeles Music Review: VALITUTTO PLAYS FELDMAN (The Neighborhood Church)

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by Daniel S. G. Wood on March 3, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Composer and pianist Richard Valitutto - POSTERLast Wednesday at the Neighborhood Church in Pasadena, LA-based freelance pianist Richard Valitutto played four solo piano works, “two short and two long,” by American composer Morton Feldman. For those uninitiated to Feldman, his work is hard to describe. A convenient description would be “soundscape music,” as in plodding, thoughtful music. It is highly structured but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

It is not impressionistic, just inherently vacant (scripted, but vacant). Ostensibly, the phrases wander, but they are timed well enough to feel their evolution. In a lot of ways Feldman’s music is about time, in the sense that you feel the beats of something evolving. Feldman features a rhythm of becoming, not an obvious groove but a temporal feel nonetheless, reliant on the long haul, the big picture. It often feels like a walking tour of the galaxy. In addition, Feldman is famous for writing über-long music, hence Valitutto’s three hour recital (one of the works, For Bunita Marcus, is over an hour and half by itself).

Morton FeldmanSometimes Feldman’s slowness can be overwhelming and I found myself questioning the programming of four straight Feldman pieces. The real question is whether to treat this program as a purist exploring his favorite thing or as a genuine error in programming. By itself, For Bunita Marcus might have been a pithy and listenable version of this marathon concert; ultimately, I find it respectable that Valitutto insisted on playing four whole solo works. In the context of Feldman’s temporal attitude, this approach is admirable. If anything, Valitutto’s Zen-like focus justified the event; it is easy to coast through playing this music, but he had something to say in every phrase and convinced us to listen.

Valitutto plays Feldman
The Neighborhood Church
301 N Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena
played February 26, 2014
for more information go to www.richardvalitutto.net

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