Published Oct 13, 2013Writing about Morton Feldman's String Quartet No. 2 poses a daunting challenge; how does one discuss this richly rewarding work without fixating on its duration? It's as if Mark Rothko painted a masterpiece upon a canvas that happened to be 30 miles wide. One could not take in the full image within the frame in one viewing even if they could conceptually understand the composition of simple abstract shapes. They would also be hard pressed not to mention the width.
One cannot listen to the FLUX String Quartet perform the six-hour, single movement piece that is Feldman's String Quartet No. 2 without slipping through various stages of consciousness as the languid, muted textures wash over. Despite all the substance of this work, all the beauty and desolate harmony of it, the endurance aspect remains ever-present and impossible to ignore.
One thing not present in the FLUX Quartet's fantastic recording of this piece on Mode Records is the beautiful choreography of page turns. Each player reads from the full, 128-page score with periods when the violist must turn the page for the cellist or when a violinist skilfully turns a page while softly bowing an open string at the same time.
Also missing from the recording are the many challenges of staging such a protracted piece composed of subtle, quiet textures. The Music Gallery did an outstanding job of sustaining a warm space for people to drift in and out at their leisure. Few venues are so tuned in to how this fantastic music demands to be presented.