Tonight I went to hear an sfSoundSeries concert where amongst the pieces they played, they performed an arrangment of Morton Feldman’s “Three Voices”. Now, Three Voices happens to be one of my favorite Feldman pieces, one I’ve listened to many, many times on CD and have also had the good fortune to hear live, sung by Joan La Barbara at Carnegie Hall. (That performance was absolutely amazing and left quite an impression on me, performed at a tempo such that the piece lasted an hour and a half, and of course that wonderfully gorgeous voice…)

Tonight’s arrangment was… unbearable. Everything that I so much adore in Feldman’s music was so completely absent in tonight’s “rendition.” (I don’t know what to even call it.) The use of different families of timbres didn’t work at all for me; the fluctuations in tempo really lost the continuity of the piece; the use of whispered words didn’t come close to the effect of the original. (Listening to the Joan La Barbara recording now, it’s such an amazing moment when words are introduced into the music…). I found tonight’s arrangment to be a very insensitive handling of the original music, really doing very little justice to it.

Perhaps my utter disappointment is obvious by now. But if not, I should say I was very disappointed in tonight’s performance.

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