David Felder

SUNY Distinguished Professor

Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition

Ph.D. University of California at San Diego

116 Slee Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260

tel: (716) 645-0658
fax: (716) 645-3824
Daivd Felder


Albany 1434

Opening Veins - Slee Sinfonietta performs works by David Felder and Andrew Rindfleisch. Features two works by each composer.

Inner Sky (1994, rev 1998)
Slee Sinfonietta, Pierre Yves Artaud, flutes, Magnus Märtensson, conductor

Dionysiacs (2005)
Kathleen Chastain/Cheryl Gobbetti-Hoffman/Sabatino Scirri/Derek Charke/Alice Teyssier/Anne Thompson, flutes, Gli Altri, Slee Sinfonietta/, James Avery, conductor

Reviews: 1

Albany 1418

Inner Sky (1994, rev 1998)
Slee Sinfonietta, Mario Caroli, flutes, Brad Lubman, conductor

Rare Air (2008)
Jean Kopperud, clarinets, Stephen Gosling, piano

Tweener (2010)
Slee Sinfonietta, Tom Kolor, percussion, James Baker, conductor

Canzone XXXI (1993)
Jon Nelson, Sycil Mathai, trumpets, Adam Unsworth, horn, Ben Herrington, trombone, Jim Daniels, bass trombone

Requiescat (2010)
Slee Sinfonietta, Magnus Andersson, guitar, James Baker, conductor

Rocket Summer (1979, rev 1983)
Ian Pace, piano

Incendio (2000)
June in Buffalo Festival Brass, Magnus Märtensson, conductor

Dionysiacs (2005)
Kathleen Chastain/Cheryl Gobbetti-Hoffman/Sabatino Scirri/Derek Charke/Alice Teyssier/Anne Thompson, flutes, Gli Altri, Slee Sinfonietta/, James Avery, conductor

Reviews: 1 2 3 4

Albany 1153

Stuck-stücke (2007)
Arditti Quartet

Memento Mori (2004)
New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor

partial [dis]res[s]toration (2002)
New York New Music ensemble, James Baker, conductor

BoxMan (1986-88)
Miles Anderson, trombone, electronics

Reviews: 1 2

Albany 1137

Shamayim (2007)
David Felder, composer
Elliot Caplan, filmmaker
Nicholas Isherwood, bass voice/electronics

Reviews: 1

EMF #033 - Felder/Feldman

EMF 033

In Between (1999)
for solo percussionist (including KAT mallet controller and sampler) and orchestra

Coleccion Nocturna (1984)
orchestral version - clarinet, piano, 4-channel tape and orchestra

June in Buffalo Orchestra conducted by Harvey Sollberger and Jan Williams
Daniel Druckman, percussion
Jean Kopperud, clarinets
James Winn, piano

Reviews: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Mode 89

a pressure triggering dreams (1996-97)
June in Buffalo Orchestra conducted by Harvey Sollberger

Six Poems from Neruda's "Alturas" (1992-93)
June in Buffalo Orchestra conducted by Magnus Märtensson

Coleccion Nocturna (1982-83)
for clarinet, piano and 4 channel tape

Jean Kopperud, clarinets
James Winn, piano

Reviews: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Bridge 9049

Journal (1990)
June in Buffalo Orchestra, Harvey Sollberger, conductor

Canzone XXXI for Brass Quintet (1993)
American Brass Quintet

November Sky for Flutes and Tape (1992)
Rachel Rudich, flutes

Third Face for String Quartet (1988)
Arditti String Quartet

Three Lines from Twenty Poems for Orchestra (1987)
June in Buffalo Orchestra, Bradley Lubman, conductor

Reviews: 1

American Record Guide, Issue 246

David Felder - Opening Veins

The pairing of David Felder and Andrew Rindfleisch on a record is not a particularly unlikely one. The liner notes declare that their work "couldn't be more different in concept or atmosphere" -- I mostly disagree. Both write in a harmonic style that is restless and unstable, but not prohibitively dissonant, allowing for memorable lines to take shape. A strength of both composers is their inventive use of sound colors available to them, supplied by the Slee Sinfonietta, co-founded by Felder in 1996.

Felder's works both have a prominent piccolo and flute, which is a harder sound to capture flatteringly even with our current recording technology. Still, his pieces are both playful and serious. Each is in a rough two-part form, with a dramatic turning point occurring around halfway through. In Dionysiacs the mischievous flutter-tonguing flutes and the mysterious sounds of crystal glasses are symphonic brass chords. Inner Sky is marked by electronic effects, with speakers interspersed between the ensemble's players, dramatically altering the trajectory of the work up to that point. A certain aimlessness is corrected by the powerful effect, pushing the piece forward and allowing it to release enough energy to end slowly and quietly. Though each work on the record is 20 minutes or shorter, each feels substantial and satisfying.

January/February 2014


Sequenza 21: File Under?

David Felder's Inner Sky

When I wrote about Felder's flute concerto Inner Sky (1994, rev. 1999) in a concert review of Tanglewood's 2011 Festival of Contemporary Music, I mentioned how much I looked forward to hearing the piece again on its (then in preparation) recording. What I didn't mention at the time: my concern that it would be difficult to capture the many details of the piece on record. Enter blu-ray audio.

Indeed, David Felder's music is perfect to demonstrate the capacities of blu-ray audio. Musical climaxes feature piercingly fierce highs and rumbling lows. Elsewhere, shimmering diaphanous textures, frequently blending electronic and acoustic instruments, surround one immersively in this multi-channel environment. By the way, if one doesn't have access to blu-ray, the recording package also includes an audio CD.

One of the magical things about Inner Sky, not just as a demonstration of an audio platform but as an expertly crafted composition, is the use of register to delineate the structuring of the three main facets of the piece: its solo part, the orchestra, and the electronics. Over the course of Inner Sky, flutist Mario Caroli is called upon to play four different flutes: piccolo, concert flute, alto flute, and bass flute. Moving from high to low, he negotiates these changes of instrument, and the challenging parts written for each of them, with mercurial speed and incisive brilliance. Even though all of the orchestra members are seated onstage, we are also treated to a spatialization of sorts through the frequent appearance of antiphonal passages. This ricochet effect is more than matched by the lithe quadraphonic electronic component. Featuring both morphed flute sounds and synthetic timbres that often respond to the orchestration, it is an equal partner in the proceedings.

Tweener (2010) a piece for solo percussion, electronics, and ensemble, features Thomas Kolor as soloist. Kolor is called upon to do multiple instrument duty too, using "analog" percussion beaters as well as a KAT mallet controller. An astounding range of sounds are evoked: crystalline bells, bowed metallophones, electronically extended passages for vibraphone and marimba. The percussionist's exertions are responded to in kind by vigorous orchestra playing from University of Buffalo's Slee Sinfonietta Chamber Orchestra, conducted by James Baker. The Slee group flourishes here in powerful brass passages, avian wind writing, and soaring strings. The brass pieces Canzonne and Incendio are also played by UB musicians in equally impressive renditions. These works combine antiphonal writing with a persuasive post-tonal pitch language that also encompasses a plethora of glissandos.

The Slee Sinfonietta again, this time conducted by James Avery, gets to go their own way on Dionysiacs. Featuring a flute sextet, the piece contains ominously sultry low register playing, offset by some tremendous soprano register pileups that more than once remind one of the more rambunctious moments in Ives's The Unanswered Question. What's more, the flutists get to employ auxiliary instruments such as nose whistles and ocarinas, adding to the chaotic ebullience of the work (entirely appropriate given its subject matter).

Clarinetist Jean Kopperud and pianist Stephen Gosling are featured on Rare Airs, a set of miniatures interspersed between the larger pieces. These works highlight both musicians' specialization in extended techniques and Kopperud's abundant theatricality as a performer. Pianist Ian Pace contributes the solo Rocket Summer. Filled with scores of colorful clusters set against rangy angular lines and punctuated by repeated notes and widely spaced sonorous harmonies, it is a taut and energetic piece worthy of inclusion on many pianists' programs.

Requiescat (2010), performed by guitarist Magnus Andersson and the Slee Sinfonietta, again conducted by Baker, is another standout work. Harmonic series and held altissimo notes ring out from various parts of the ensemble, juxtaposed against delicate guitar arpeggiations and beautifully complex corruscating harmonies from other corners. Once again, Felder uses register and space wisely, keeping the orchestra out of the guitar's way while still giving them a great deal of interesting music to play. Written relatively recently, Requiescat's sense of pacing, filled with suspense and dramatic tension but less inexorable than the aforementioned concerti, demonstrates a different side of Felder's creativity, and suggests more efficacious surprises in store from him in the future.

Christian Carey


Fanfare Magazine, August 2013

David Felder's Inner Sky

The entire first page of the booklet of the present CD is given over to an explanation as to why there are two discs with overlapping (albeit not completely identical) content included in this new Albany release. It turns out that one of them is a Blu-Ray disc with 90 minutes of music (no video) devoted to multi-channel mixing in high resolution. The pieces in this set that employ electronics are recorded in eight channels, although presumably you have only two speakers on which to listen to them. The Blu-Ray version is intended to give the auditor a "greatly enhanced auditory window into a concert experience." Since I have a Blu-Ray player, what did I make of the Blu-Ray recordings? Read on!

The astute reader will note the mention of seven flutists by name in the above head note. Even though only two of the works on the present CD feature flute, composer David Felder clearly has an affinity for the instrument. And just who is David Felder, you ask? Felder serves as Birge-Cary Chair in Composition at SUNY, Buffalo, and has been artistic director of the June in Buffalo Festival from 1985 to present. He also founded, and serves as artistic director of the Slee Sinfonietta, and both groups are heard on the present disc. His music has been widely performed at festivals around the globe, and he has received numerous grants and commissions from the New York State Council, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Guggenheim, and Koussevitzky foundations, among others. With all that, I feel a bit guilty for never having made his acquaintance before now.

Assuming that a somewhat greater number of readers have compact disc players than Blu-Ray, I'll begin with a discussion of the contents of the CD, which opens with Tweener, a work for chamber orchestra with percussion solo. The percussion part is confined largely to the mallet instruments, the marimba and the KAT electronic mallet instrument (the latter a new one to me, to be sure). The work has its very busy and dissonant sections—imagine Varese on steroids—as well as sections of quiet repose, more akin to Feldman. Colors abound through imaginative scoring, and much of the work's unique sound comes through the use of instruments in their lower registers. Rather than consistently use the percussion in an overt soloistic fashion, Felder often integrates it into the texture, adding colors and textures to the effect of the ensemble. This is to take nothing away from the virtuosity of the percussion writing, or the considerable skill that percussionist Tom Kolor brings to it.

Rocket Summer is a work for solo piano, to date Felder's only contribution to the solo piano repertory, and is the earliest work included on the recital. The title is drawn from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, and the work suggests whirling rotations, symbolic of a rocket's motor, and its blast-off that turns an Ohio winter into summer. Other parts of the piece apparently depict blizzard conditions and ice. Felder proves in this work that he can write colorful music even on the essentially mono-chromatic piano.

Incendio utilizes an ensemble of ten brass instruments. Rhythmically and harmonically very free, the interval of the major second plays a prominent role in certain parts of the work, but the composer zeros in on other intervals and pitches from time to time. While the work is not tonal, it doesn't sound serial at all. A close companion to Incendio is the following brass work, Canzone XXXI, scored for two trumpets, horn, trombone, and bass trombone, the latter replacing the more common tuba in the brass quintet. The effect of the piece is similar to its disc-mate, except that the level of virtuosity is ramped up a couple of notches. The work was written for the American Brass Quintet, but the players who present it here have every ounce of skill required to bring the piece off effectively.

The CD closes with Requiescat, a work for guitar solo and chamber ensemble, with electronics. Characteristic of Felder's writing, this piece is full of unusual sonorities, colors, and very expressive dissonance. It is remarkable how beautiful the extreme dissonances contained in this work sound in Felder's hands.

To compare the sonics of the CD with the Blu-Ray disc, I inserted each disc into its respective player, and synchronized them at the beginning of Tweener. It was very easy, then, simply to toggle the selector on my pre-amp between the recordings. Doing so, I'd like to say that I could hear substantial differences between the two formats, but I did not. Any differences were very subtle: if present at all, they were beyond the ability of my 63-year-old ears to discern. Possibly younger listeners would hear a difference. All of the works contained on the CD are also found on the Blu-Ray disc, but it contains other works as well. The first of these is Rare Air: Blews for a length of garden hose off-stage and electronics. The hose part consists mainly of wailing on the part of the soloist, leading me to wonder how those sounds were produced on the clarinet (the attribution on the tray card), but at under two minutes, the piece does not wear out its welcome. The similarly-titled Rare Air: Boxmunsdottir actually utilizes clarinet and bass clarinet, as listed, along with electronics, but the tray card lists piano on both of these works, of which I heard not a note. It is nonetheless full of interesting effects and overlaying of the two solo instruments. There are some piano sounds in the later-heard Rare Air: Boxmunsson but nary a word in the notes explaining the use of the Icelandic names.

Inner Sky is scored for solo flutes (apparently one player) and an orchestra of percussion, piano, strings and computer-generated sounds that mimic flutes and (especially) piccolos. It is a highly-dissonant exercise, with lots of notes in the extreme treble (those with sensitive ears will not be able to play this piece at a very high volume), and palpably exciting in its effect. It is, at 16 minutes, also the longest work in this anthology, and probably my favorite work herein given that it sounds so utterly original to me.

Finally, Dionysiacs is the work that utilizes all those flutists listed in the headnote. The opening of this work was a bit much in the treble department for my ears, but it wasn't long before lower pitches began to predominate. This is a most imaginative work--all those flutes make for a uniquely eerie sound. The orchestra doesn't make its appearance until well into the piece.

While not music for the masses (I could only wish that the "masses" would appreciate music like this, or even classical music in general), Felder's work will hold considerable appeal to those for whom the music of such composers as Ives, Varèse, Crumb, and other forward-looking composers of our era has appeal. His is a most individual compositional voice. Accordingly, strongly recommended.

David DeBoor Canfield


Buffalo Spree, November 2013

Inner Sky Review

David Felder's music may be somewhat difficult to categorize for the average listener. Electronics are an important component, not simply as an enhancement to human players in an orchestra, but as an additional instrument: a concerto for electronics and orchestra. This idea is beautifully expressed in the opening piece, "Tweener," where electronics and the Slee Sinfonietta combine to give a feeling of the "music of the spheres." Vigorous oscillations across many octaves from the very high to a descent well below the baseline by the rarely heard, contra-bass clarinet, attempt to express the feeling of infinite space.

"Rocket Summer" is this reviewer's favorite piece on the CD. Written in 1979 and revised in 1983, it represents the earliest of the Felder pieces on this recording. The title of the piece is taken from the first chapter of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, which depicts a rocket lift-off from an Ohio launch pad during a winter storm. Pianist Ian Pace sets the tone of the rocket with repeated notes and pulsating chords that build to a crescendo as the rocket prepares for lift-off. As almost a contrast, an Ohio blizzard swirls around as the rocket lifts off. Then, silence—escape velocity is reached. Looking outward at the vastness of space, the ferocity of the Ohio blizzard is but a distant memory.

"Requiescat" rounds out the disc with a tribute to new music conductor/pianist James Avery. Beginning with the superb deep tones of Jean Kopperud on the contrabass clarinet, this piece surveys single notes and multiple chords with guitar accents from guitarist Magnus Andersson. The resulting swirling sounds are typically Felderian, as the focus of the piece seems to shift from one group of instruments to another until a single sound fades to black.

If you can find someone with Blu Ray capability, don't miss Rare Air. Written in 2008, the piece is in four parts and is meant to be interspersed throughout a larger program. Jean Kopperud playing clarinet and garden hose to produce sounds reminiscent of frogs, geese, and ducks is not to be missed in part 1. Part 2: Rare Air: Boxmunsdottir and part 3: Rare Air: Boxmunsson show Felder at his best, playing in the low registers with clarinet and piano doing repeated notes and octaves in a swirling pattern and colliding with electronic sounds. Part 4: Rare Air: Aria da Capo completes the collection with a short return to the serenity of nightlife beside a pond with flying insects and other night-flying creatures.

This collection is a terrific introduction to a brilliant compositional career.

©Peter R. Reczek


American Record Guide

Inner Sky Review

David Felder's works are fairly intense, and the multichannel mix allowed by the Blu-Ray disc (Albany 1418) helps this. Tweener takes its time emerging. Spurts of low brass, a spattering of marimba and piano, a single flute motive, and a dense background of strings all appear and retreat. Eventually, guitar enters the atonal fray and the tangled nest of sound gives way under its own weight. Canzone XXXI is brass-centered and somewhat imitative. Fanfares enter and are undercut by trombone slides. The motion is hectic, with continual outbursts as each instrument vies for attention. Rare Air, a set of four interludes for clarinet, bass clarinet and piano; Inner Sky, an airy, virtuosic flute piece with chamber orchestra; and Dionysiacs, a flute sextet exploring the ranges of piccolo through bass flute, are not included on the CD. Felder's program, on either Blu-Ray or CD, uses propulsive brass to offset his static fields of winds and strings while seeking the heights and depths of all the instruments involved.

Kraig Lamper


Fanfare Magazine, August 2010

David Felder - Stuck-stücke/Memento Mori/partial [dis]res[s]toration/BoxMan
David Felder - Shamayim

How broad a swath do these two discs cover? Certainly, even though all of this music except for BoxMan comes from the 21st century (and even BoxMan is heard with 21st-century revisions), the selection is broad enough to suggest both David Felder's undoctrinaire range and the jeremiad spirit that runs through his output. Still, of the two qualities, it's the variety that's most striking on first acquaintance. From the paradoxically intricate meditation of Shamayim (a video and music collaboration between Felder and filmmaker Elliot Caplan) and the underlying, if troubled, lyricism of Memento Mori (texts by Neruda, musical inspiration going back, in spots, to the Renaissance) to the wild outbursts of BoxMan (a solo trombonist interweaving with electronic transformations of himself), this is music that throws you consistently off balance. Even within a given piece, variety is often the most immediate quality.

Stuck-stücke , for instance, consists of 13 often super-virtuosic fragments (two of them further sub-divided), most under a minute and a half - and while many of them draw on what we might loosely call post-Webernian vocabulary, and while many are united by what the composer calls "an incessant, repetitive iteration of small gestures," the sense of startling juxtaposition tends to trump the sense of continuity. The work shares little with Memento Mori. This choral piece works in longer and more patient arcs; in spots, especially toward the beginning, it has a certain superficial kinship to the new spiritualism of composers like Pärt. But even at its most restrained, it's far more eventful and far more apt to float into extreme dissonances. BoxMan has a different persona - impulsive and extroverted, it's a manic piece that calls on the soloist to do everything that the instrument is capable of, and much that you might have thought was beyond its capacity. Intended for a performer on stage and with speakers surrounding the audience, it's the kind of piece that demands SACD multichannel - Felder, in our discussion, suggested that it would sound "pretty squashed" if heard in two-channel stereo, and he's right. To get the full effect - which is dizzyingly spectacular - you need the right equipment.

As for partial [dist]res[s]toration, it inhabits yet a different musical universe. An enormously rich and complex sextet ( Pierrot ensemble plus percussion), it seems to call for a kind of archeological listening, since it treats musical history - to quote Paul Griffiths's excellent notes - "as layered" in the present rather than "stretching behind us with the past irretrievably gone." Old sketches of Felder's own are rubbed up against newly composed music in a way that, as the composer points out, restores the former and distresses the latter; in the process, suggestions of older music by other composers are mixed in, too. Griffiths points to Carter, Schoenberg, and the Renaissance; I hear echoes of Messiaen; you'll no doubt hear other sources in this kaleidoscopic piece.

The most extensive work here is Shamayim , which combines images of nature with voice and electronically manipulated vocal and nature sounds. A few issues back, Robert Carl gave a good description of its origins, structure, and tone, aptly describing the work as, at least in part, "a search for the sublime in nature, albeit a restrained one," but also pointing to its intellectual complexity (33:4). On the whole, I was more taken with the piece than Carl was - although that may be in part because he listened to the two-channel mix. For there are at least two reasons Shamayim , perhaps even more than BoxMan, demands multichannel playback.

First, there's a visceral reason: The music opens out immeasurably in surround sound, creating, among other things, what Felder calls a "ceremonial space." In two channels, that space is flattened, and the music is reduced to a soundtrack for the images. Second, there's an intellectual reason: Physical space is one of Shamayim 's key structural elements. Granted, this is a complex work on many levels; for instance, the Hebrew letters around which the work is built have numerical equivalents that are played up in the structure of the work. But one of the key organizing factors is space; as Felder put it in his interview, "the physical shape of the various Hebrew letters that are connected to natural elements are carved through the space." Without that spatial dimension, much of the work's rigor is lost.

I hope my stress of the music's rigor won't discourage any listeners. I don't want to minimize Shamayim 's intricacy - even Felder himself, in our discussion, wondered how much of its structure you can identify on a conscious level (although he does believe that something "structurally iterative and repeated" in a work may still register "on some subconscious level"). But despite its complexity, Shamayim has that visceral side as well - a gorgeously sensual immediacy that (especially as you're engulfed in the surround-sound tracks) arrests your attention. So even if you are unable to follow the music's formal ingenuity - indeed, even you're not entirely sympathetic to the specifics of its spiritual dimensions - you may well find that Shamayim works on you in a way that heightens the attention with which you perceive the world around you.

You really can't talk about the "performance" of Shamayim . But the performances on the other disc are all expert - and even the more conventional works that don't disperse the sound sources around the hall benefit from the added presence of the SACD surround tracks. Warmly recommended.

Peter J. Rabinowitz


Italia Oggi

David Felder - BoxMan

The music of the American composer David Felder projects itself to the future with deep roots in the tradition in a spiral of sounds which surround the listener. You can perceive this while listening to BoxMan, the new disc of the artist (Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Artistic Director of the Festival June in Buffalo). In this collection, published by the prestigious Albany Records, we find some of his most significant compositions, composed in the last twenty years. Starting from Stuck-stücke, a hypnotic string quartet in 15 short movements and superbly performed by the prestigious Arditti Quartet, a reference work for the modern and contemporary repertoire; an ensemble comprised of Irvine Arditti (violin), Ashot Sarkissjan (violin), Ralf Ehlers (viola) and Lucas Fels (cello). These four musicians are comfortable with a music which, while re-reading the past, materializes the contradictions of the contemporary. The essential and simple theme cells of the composition (as it happens in commercials) become a pretext from which the tensions of the complex inner world of Felder materialize themselves. Even more evocative is Memento Mori, that Felder entrusted to the New York Virtuoso Singers, conducted by Harold Rosenbaum. We arrive at BoxMan, the final track of the album. Composed in a two-year period 1987/1988 and revisited with new injections of electronics in 1999, the composition is performed by trombonist Miles Anderson who succeeds in expressing Felder's feelings. Albany Records also recently released the DVD Shamayim, whose accomplishment is based on a faithful realization of the musical intention of the composer, specifically in the distribution in the acoustical space of the musical elements (surround 5.1).

We suggest listening to it in your home at the end of a work day.

Antonio Ranalli


HASKINS, American Record Guide, May, 2010

Felder: Shamayim
film by Elliot Caplan; Nicholas Isherwood, bass
Albany 1137 - 34 minutes

According to a fascinating but somewhat elliptical conversation between Felder and Caplan that takes the place of liner notes, this video-music work involved structural principles derived from Hebrew letters (which, according to Caplan, imply a sense of direction and movement as well as contain a numeric value). Indeed, "Shamayim" is Hebrew for "heavens", and the first two sections also carry Hebrew titles: the first, 'Chashmal', refers to the fiery radiance surrounding God on His chariot in Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 1:1-3); Felder himself translates the second, 'Sa'arah', as "stormy wind". In all three movements (the last is called 'Black Fire/White Fire'), the computer-generated sounds draw principally on Isherwood's wide-ranging vocal virtuosity, while the video presents many images from nature—trees, a lake, clouds—sometimes supplemented by other images (luminous hexagons are prominent) and other video processing. Sometimes I almost hear a text; the musicologist in me would like to know the text and translation, if any, but the notes supply none. I'm struck by Felder's remark that the work is "operatic" in size—that it loses quite a bit if one's not able to see it projected in a dark hall on a big screen. I can imagine the work making an even stronger impression in such a venue. As it is, I find Shamayim a complex and (in the best sense of the word) awesome work.

The music is abstract but not forbidding, and the images arresting and unforgettable. In particular, I'm glad to see Caplan's work. He's had a long career that includes collaborations with John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and the American composer Michael Gordon and hasn't gotten the attention that it deserves—most likely because the kind of theater that he's creating is so difficult to describe but so important to see.


Seen and Heard, December, 2001

Morton Feldman(1926-1987) wrote his Instruments II the same year he founded June in Buffalo, a festival for emerging young composers at the music department of the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he taught. David Felder, who had been asked to join the music faculty at Feldman's invitation in 1985, took over the festival's artistic direction and has been in charge ever since. On June 5th, 2000, the 25th anniversary of the festival opened with a bang, which thanks to David Felder had been recorded afterwards (Slee Hall, Amherst NY, June 6-9 2000). The result is an artistically and technically outstanding CD, produced by Felder himself, who for this occasion had assembled the hand-picked June in Buffalo Festival Orchestra, consisting of 57 of the best instrumental specialists in contemporary music in the States and far beyond. From the original concert, only For Toru by Lukas Foss is missing sadly, but there was no more space.

David Felder revised and realized his monumental one movement concerto for percussion and extended chamber orchestra, originally composed for a soloist with electronics(1991), between 1999 and 2000. There could not have been a more impressive and forward looking start to the anniversary celebrations than its world premiere with the impressive percussionist Daniel Druckman, to whom as well as to the memory of Morton Feldman it is
dedicated. David Felder is known for writing extremely complex, but deeply surging and uplifting music and this work is no exception. This constant eruption of a volcano and all that, happens in between, possesses not only a mesmerizing beauty of colours and rhythms, it is also full of quiet as well as explosive danger. The level of energy captivates the listener right from the beginning and I am again fascinated by the way Felder manages - as he does in all his other works - to create a kind of tension one can not escape until the final bar. Despite the many pure technical thoughts with regards to the various musical materials and their interaction, this music expresses endless visions of angst, of vulnerability - and of hope. The work is of extreme virtuosity not only for the soloist, who next to a battery of instruments also plays a five-octave marimba and a KAT midi controller, but for all 57 musicians including three more percussion players; a virtuosity on a Lisztian scale (the New York composer Nils Vigeland in his short, but pregnant introduction).

Coleccion Nocturna was composed 1982/1983; it also exists in a chamber version for the two soloists and four-channel tape available on Mode CD, 89 (S&H October 2000). The orchestra version, first played by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with the composer as conductor, the legendary Yvar Mikhashoff(piano) and William Powell (clarinets) in its 1985-6 season, is also vintage Felder. Based on a self-contained musical object from an earlier work, it contains five continuous variations for soloists, mid-sized orchestra and tape. It takes its inspiration from the poem Coleccion Nocturna by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which Felder describes in his own words as powerfully evocative images of a surreal nocturnal landscape, great distance, both physical and spiritual, and a world rich in energy and exhausted isolation. Of course, Felder created his own searching musical poems full of intensity and atmospheric sensuousness, of danger and loneliness. Written fifteen years before In Between, it nevertheless creates the same tension and forces an unbiased ear to listen. In a musical world, which to the greater extend is occupied by experiments, minimalist deadening and public orientated vulgar emptiness, the music by David Felder opens a whole new world of deep rooted honesty and vision; a true composer of the 21st century.

There is no other place but Buffalo, where the legacy of Morton Feldman is still vividly alive. The two works on this recording could not be more different. Instruments II mirrors Feldman's ideal of the flat surface, while The Viola in My Life IV is atypical and very unusual for a composer, who created a stagnant time sense.

Here, the solo viola sings a deeply emotional song, a kind of love letter, while the sparing and transparent orchestra sound serves as a delicate and sometimes powerful background. The soloist Jesse Levine creates the most beautiful lyrical intimacy. This composition shows Morton Feldman as the true genius he has been.

Morton Feldman and David Felder may musically be worlds apart, but they were close friends, accepted each other totally and created this magical island in Buffalo, where over the last 25 years contemporary music was able to blossom. This immaculate CD documents, therefore, not only two exceptional composers, but thanks to David Felder, also the unbroken spirit of June in Buffalo.


Gramophone, August 2002

Feldman - Instruments II, The Viola in My Life IV
Felder - Coleccion Nocturna, In Between

Harvey Sollberger & Jan Williams, cond.; Daniel Druckman (perc); Jean Kopperud (cl); Jesse Levine (va); James Winn (pn); June in Buffalo Festival Orchestra

This intriguing disc presents a generous programme of four orchestral works, each clocking in at around 20 minutes, by a pair of decidedly contrasting voices. The performances stem from the June concerts at the State University of New York at Buffalo where Morton Feldman taught from 1971 until his death in 1987. David Felder, a friend and colleague of Feldman's, is professor of composition at SUNY Buffalo and has been artistic director of the June in Buffalo festival since 1985. Though Feldman is the more recognised name, Felder's music is by no means second best.

In Between is a wild ride, tearing out fo the gate with high sustained screeches, followed by a brief passage for violins, jagged brass outbursts and tonality-crunching chords. A quiet stalking bass figure emerges as spare notes coalesce and merge around the music. The title refers to the solo percussionist who plays 'in between' the alternately roaring and hushed orchestral tapestry. Powerful brass chords and percussion rattles propel the music to a faster tempo. The wonderfully cacophonous climax, with its wide range of imaginative steel and percussion against roaring brass and pounding bass drum, is reminiscent of the heavy-metal symphonic fury of Cristobal Hallfter. The music is full of incident and never lets up over its 21-minute span, and Daniel Druckman handles the variety of percussion instruments with keen concentration and virtuosic flair.

Felder's Coleccion Nocturna pits comparable hair-trigger explosive outbursts against spare piano fragments and roiling, churning orchestral canvas. He often shaves textures down to an atonal honky-tonk piano and gambolling clarinet lines. The churning, roiling music rises to massive crescendos amid soaring jazz-like clarinet descants and saxophone-like wails. This is hugely compelling music played magnificently by the festival orchestra under Harvey Sollberger.

Feldman's The Viola in my Life IV offers contrast with the sweet timbre of the solo viola in a melody of neo-Baroque gentility. Distant timpani rolls, percussion rattles and chimes add mystery and context to the viola's foreground dialogue. A three-note bass figure offers material for the soloist's spinning of graceful melodic lines. Feldman's Instruments II is characteristic in its "horizontal" argument with rumbles and spare woodwind notes set against a slowly undulating instrumental canvas. Piano chords and percussion shimmers alternate with wind fragments, and though the music holds one's attention, I can't say this is one of Feldman's more convincing works.

All performances are excellent and the superb recording allows the fascinating, variegated sound world of each composer to emerge with maximum clarity and impact.

Lawrence A Johnson


Whence the Musical Avant-Garde in Buffalo?

Art Voice

Edward Yadzinski

During the course of this year's June in Buffalo (JIB) festival for new music at UB, audiences were reminded once again about how well Buffalo is regarded as one of the world's primary venues for new music. While this writer is accustomed to turning out articles devoted to the exciting but mostly standard repertoire performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic at Kleinhans, I could not help but find delight in the recollection of how Buffalo became so renowned for the flip-side of classical music - i.e. the music of the avant-garde. The tale of just how all this happened, and the creative spinoffs which ensued, makes for colorful telling. Oddly enough, it all began with the Buffalo Philharmonic back in 1963. At the time, the BPO had flourished artistically under the batons of two esteemed music directors revered for their Viennese approach to making music, namely William Steinberg, who was at the helm from 1945 through 1952, followed by Josef Krips, who presided over the Orchestra through the spring of 1963. Of course, when we say Viennese tradition we mean the heritage of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Associates. (To be sure, in this context 'Viennese tradition' does not include names like Schönberg, Webern and Berg, who some argue were truly the world's first musical avant-gardists.)

But just then, at the point where the BPO was thinking about making its first major recordings (Krips had made a couple of pilot recordings with the BPO of Beethoven symphonies), suddenly there was a new wunderkind on the Buffalo block in the person of American composer, conductor and piano virtuoso Lukas Foss. German born, trained in France and the U.S., with a fine reputation for his keyboard legerdemain with Bach and Mozart, Foss was perfectly positioned as the BPO's new music director. Moreover, despite his reputed savvy for modern musical trends, just about everyone expected Foss to maintain the artistic esprit of his predecessors.

Then it happened - with a first stroke of creative lightning, the BPO would never be the same. Yes, Vienna was given its fair due - Foss' very first concert opened with Brahms' Symphony No.1. But there was a catch - after intermission the demure walls of Kleinhans shook for the first time with the sound of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring--and the audience loved it.

But that was merely a pre-echo of what would follow. Within just three seasons the Buffalo Philharmonic led the entire symphonic world in the performance of new music. Yet, to tell the whole truth, all was not rosy with more than a few BPO subscribers who simply loved the great masters. And there were more than a few sincere listeners who considered most of the 'modern stuff' to be written by musical impostors. However, because he was such a genuine item (the late Seymour Knox once referred to Foss as "...the only genius I ever met..."), Foss managed to maintain enough programming balance to keep the symphonic boat afloat, but a permanent sea change had surely prevailed over the great swells in Kleinhans - some called it a rip-tide.

With all of this we are not surprised that when the BPO did release its first three major recordings in 1967 (on Nonesuch), two of them were devoted to the music of the avant-garde (Xenakis, Cage, Pendercki, Foss), while the third was a splendid offering of Sibelius' Four Legends from Kalevala.

In retrospect, one would have naturally thought that the 'new-music-thing' for Buffalo would rest with the Philharmonic. Hardly. Foss had a lot more magic and mischief up his sleeve. To wit - by the fall of 1964 he had teamed-up with UB music department chairman Alan Sapp to convince both the Rockefeller Foundation and New York State to initiate and sponsor the Center for the Creative and Performing Arts on the UB campus.

In just one year the Foss-Sapp liaison had pulled off one of the greatest coups in the history of 20th century new music. The Center opened at UB in the fall of 1964 with nineteen full-time, non-teaching appointments of extraordinary young composers and instrumentalists from around the world. While the requisite high level of funding would prevail for just a few years, the Center nevertheless maintained its Evenings for New Music series at the Albright-Knox Gallery and at Carnegie Hall for more than a decade, in addition to making two European tours in the early 70s.

For those of us who were lucky enough to be en scène at the time, it is hard to believe that almost four decades have passed since those heady days in the early 60s. But when we consider just how quickly word about new music in Buffalo had spread around the world, we must also recognize thatthere was keen precedent in the international renown Buffalo already enjoyed in the world of modern art. To the point, the relatively small but highly esteemed collection at the Albright-Knox added direct credibility to Buffalo's burgeoning efforts in new music.

Yet, even with all of this, there was still more excitement to come. In 1975 the June in Buffalo festival for new music was initiated by one of the central figures of American contemporary music, Morton Feldman, who taught at UB from 1972 until his death in 1987. In spirit and intent, JIB was a direct spin-off from the Center. Since 1986, JIB has been directed by UB faculty composer David Felder, whose music and that of Feldman has been recently paired on a retrospective CD (see below). However, at one juncture there was a hiatus from the events of JIB, and Buffalo might have begun to slip from its position as a major player on the international new music scene. But the daylight was virtually saved in 1983 by the initiation of the North American New Music Festival (NAMF) at UB by the late yet still irrepressible Yvar Mikhashoff. With co-director Jan Williams, Mikhashoff presided over NAMF through 1993, a brilliant interval which again reflected the creative inertia of UB's Center for the Creative and Performing Arts of the 60s.

And the particular Buffalo Zeitgeist for new music remains vibrant to this very moment. This year's June in Buffalo festival at UB, held from June 3rd through the 8th, was yet again a very exciting affair, highlighted by the seminars and music of several top figures in the very broad world of new music. In addition to director David Felder, the invited resident composers for the event included Bernard Rands, Jonathon Harvey, Augusta Read Thomas, Philippe Manoury and John Harbison. Among a variety of fine soloists, the first-class performing ensembles for JIB included the Baird Trio (Stephen Manes, Movses Pogossian, Jonathon Golove), the New York New Music Ensemble, the Meridian Arts Ensemble, Quatuor Bozzini and the Slee Sinfonietta under the director of Magnus Mårtensson. It was a busy week indeed, comprising six composer lectures and eleven concert events at UB's Slee Hall and Baird Recital Hall.

Audience attendance at JIB this year seemed a fair cut above the normal turnout of new music loyalists (a.k.a. the 'usual suspects') whose presence has always been so vital to events of this kind. After all, a lot of the music heard was - well - 'out there' in one degree or another. And it is remarkable how discriminating these audiences can be. While it seems the wild and woolly days of rabid audience enthusiasm or censure (there used to be occasional hooting and audible jeering at new music concerts just a couple of decades ago) - audiences today express their pleasure, or relative boredom, with applause that ranks from polite acknowledgement to genuine enthusiasm, with curtain calls for deserved emphasis. In any case, the message gets through to the composers and performers, whether it matters to them or not (and it usually matters, very much).

With regard to the creative spinoffs which followed from Buffalo's musical avant-garde, a couple of points deserve highlighting. For one, the educational value has been very significant to the comprehensive mission of UB. To give just one example, the new music experience here has given rise to a solid graduate composition program at the University, with as many as twenty-five doctoral composition students from all over the world. Moreover, today there are perhaps dozens of important CD releases of new music by composers and performers who have been directly influenced, if not inspired, by an avant-garde experience here in Buffalo. Were it at a BPO concert at Kleinhans, at the Albright-Knox, or at UB, not to mention a variety of other important venues around town like Hallwalls and Rockwell Hall, Buffalo's musical avant-garde continues to make a big difference around the world.

A splendid example of Buffalo's avant-garde can be heard on a recent CD of orchestral music written by the past and present directors of June in Buffalo, namely Morton Feldman and David Felder. For devout new music buffs, this one is not to be missed. And for the classical music lovers out there whose hearts belong to the beautiful European traditions, have a listen to this latter world of music--it will be well worth the time.

The Feldman/Felder CD was recorded at Slee Hall in June of 2000, which marked the 25th anniversary of JIB. The manifest contrast in composer styles could not be more acute - doubly fascinating in that it was Feldman who invited Felder, then fresh out of UC San Diego, to join the UB composition faculty in 1985. Released in 2001, the CD does not bear a title, though surely something like Buffalo en avant would have fit perfectly. Four works are 'fielded' here (in German, 'Feld' means 'field'), a pair by each composer: In Between (1999) and Coleccion Nocturna (1971) by David Felder, and The Viola in My Life IV (1971) and Instruments II (1975) by Morton Feldman.

In the CD's excellent liner notes, Buffalo composer Nils Vigeland observes: "In Between, for solo percussionist and chamber orchestra, is a work of eruptive force in which huge, pulsing blocks of sound hurtle through the entire orchestra. The In Between role of the soloist varies from that of concerto protagonist to just a prominent member of the orchestra." To this we must add bravissimo to soloist Daniel Druckman, on loan from the New York Philharmonic. The title page of Felder's Coleccion Nocturna provides the following notes by the composer: "Coleccion Nocturna is a large-scale set of five variations for clarinet/bass clarinet and piano soloists with orchestra and 4-channel magnetic tape. The inter-connected and overlapping segments develop gestural materials derived from the final six measures of this work into characteristic types evident in each section. Chilean poet-laureate Pablo Neruda's poem lent powerfully evocative images of a surreal nocturnal landscape, great distance, both physical and spiritual, and a world rich in energy and exhausted isolation." The outstanding soloists for the recording are clarinetist Jean Kopperud and pianist James Winn, both members of the New York New Music Ensemble. About the work, Vigeland remarks: "Coleccion Nocturna lives in an explosive world, offset by passages of quiet uncertainty."

A brief sample of Neruda's poetry offers a clue to Felder's powerful evocation:

I listen:
for a dream of old playfellows,
and for women beloved, and I am
rent by the shock of my dreaming.
It is midnight all around me
and death beats on a gong like the sea.

As mentioned above, the Feldman pieces are in striking contrast to Felder's dynamic macrosonics. In both The Viola in My Life (inspired by violist Karen Phillips) and Instruments II, Feldman presents a kind of stasis of delicate, crystalline combinations of ever evolving orchestral timbres. Vigeland notes: "The Viola in My Life is one of Feldman's most diverse pieces, and the solo line carries the entire piece melodically on its shoulders. The complexity of the orchestral projection lies in the blending of an extremely varied combination of instruments which must speak as a single sound."

The soloist for The Viola in My Life is Jesse Levine, former principal violist of the BPO during the Foss years, currently on the faculty of Yale University. Mr. Levine's interpretation is simply exquisite, perfectly tuned and poetically phrased - sine qua non. Feldman's chamber work for eleven players, Instruments II, is also beautifully interpreted and recorded. Again, Feldman's intuition for ephemeral instrumental timbres is alluring, if not seductive - elegant and eloquent.

The June in Buffalo Festival Orchestra heard here turns in a fine effort. The Felder works are conducted by Harvey Solberger, who directs SONOR at UC San Diego and who has appeared frequently at JIB. The Feldman works are recorded under the baton of percussionist extraordinaire Jan Williams, a former member and director of the Center for the Creative and performing Arts, and professor of percussion at UB. In sum, the CD is a handsome witness to Buffalo's new music heritage. The recording is available on the EMF label of the Electronic Music Foundation.


LaFolia Online Music Review, May 2002

Review of
EMF 133 Felder/Feldman
Mode 89 David Felder: a pressure triggering dreams...
Bridge 9049 The Music of David Felder

I think I've said this before: Morton Feldman's The Viola in My Life has got to be one of the all-time best titles for an opus. I was happy to get the EMF disc; it ably rounds out the first three parts of The Viola in My Life (CRI 620). Parts I, II and III are scored for intimate-sized ensembles, whereas Part IV is for viola and orchestra. Jan Williams, who conducts part IV, appears on the CRI as percussionist in Feldman's Why Patterns? As in the other three parts, the viola is omnipresent, gentle, and searching. Single notes, sometimes chords, surface and disappear in the mostly quiet orchestra; only the violist seems to get a melody. It emerges plaintively, almost trying to soar above an imaginary weight (perhaps the orchestra) that constrains it. Sometimes the orchestra seems stuck on a repetitive pattern or phrase -- a recurring birdcall or a downward-moving octave -- but the viola with its unbreakable melodic thread gives this static piece direction. Few works impart a timpani tremolo such pungency or instill the violist's rare grace note with such emotion. This is approachable Feldman: a comfortable length with easy-to-follow musical material.

This EMF was my introduction to David Felder, and I had to hear more. Felder has deservedly won his share of acclaim and awards, and in 1985 Feldman handpicked him to be his peer at the University of New York at Buffalo. If you like composers who know what to do with poetry, or who can successfully integrate electronics into their work, or who just plain know how to write music that's worth hearing, then you must get to know Mr. Felder You can also hear his work on a recent disc from Mode, and an older one on Bridge. Interestingly, all these have similar cover art (especially the EMF and Mode releases), done by the same artist, Alfred DeCredico.

The EMF begins with Felder's In Between for solo percussionist and orchestra, an engrossing work. He crafts dissonant, glacial blocks of orchestral sound and the solo percussionist wanders through them. The opening (staggered entrances and exits over long-sustained chords) is a touch otherworldly, and it's hard to tell when the soloist comes to the fore, as the orchestra has three percussionists of its own. Felder's orchestration is skillful: A drawn-out oboe phrase supported with bassoons can be punctuated by slow-moving muted strings. There are building climaxes that emphasize held notes, and even octaves or occasional small-interval brass glissandi I have heard in Scelsi. I don't feel right calling this a concerto -- both soloist and orchestra seem to be on the same team, if that makes sense.

Coleccion Nocturna, Felder's other item on the disc, is 15 years younger than In Between. It's more clearly a concerto, in this case for solo clarinet, piano, and orchestra. Interestingly, the clarinet is much more ostentatious than the piano, whose largely linear and upper-range role is to intercede between clarinet and orchestra. An atmosphere of virtuosity has the clarinet competing with the orchestra for attention and dominance. I found it much less commanding than In Between until about the two-thirds point, when the pulse of the work slowed down greatly as if revealing a mystery. Now, I didn't find any mention of it in the notes, but I heard what could only be a tape. A few times I caught the distinct backwards attack and release of a piano note, but there were moments when I could briefly hear the piano note beating, as if playing against a slightly slowed-down double of itself. This made me listen more closely; not that it's a parlor trick, but it was clear that there is a lot more going on in this piece than I first imagined.

Felder has a splendid grasp of what I like to think of as "pulse." This isn't a foursquare boom-box rhythm coming from a passing car; it remains in the background as the basic speed at which major changes occur. Felder handles slow and relaxed pulses amazingly and, come to think of it, so did Feldman in his later oeuvre. Felder, though, has more propulsion and even intensity at slow pulse then Feldman did.

Mode 89 presents the chamber version of Felder's Coleccion Nocturna, scored for clarinet, piano and tape (the notes do say that the orchestral version has a tape part!). It's fascinating to hear these siblings side by side. Not everybody's idea of fun, but viewing a composer work through similar material in two coherent and substantial versions lends great insight into the choices a composer makes, especially when each alternative produces such a convincing statement on its own. While it's not as easy to hear that clarinet and piano proceeding in variations, the result becomes richer and more introspective as new sounds are explored.

The Mode recording starts with a virtuosic orchestral work, Six Poems from Neruda's "Alturas..."Three differently sized and exquisitely crafted movements wrestle with Neruda's poetry. The first is a loud miniature of barely three minutes, with a searingly fast melodic line whose great leaps are propelled throughout the orchestra. The central one is the longest (over 14 minutes), and it combines four poems -- the outer movements tackle one poem each. The finale reflects the repetitive rhythms in the text with moments of driving repetition. The diversity of length, texture and mood creates an arresting spell.

The last effort, a pressure triggering dreams, is for large orchestra and electronics. The electronics appear in multiple guises: benignly as amplification for selected instruments, and strikingly as sampled sounds manipulated from a keyboard. The synthesizer employs mostly flute-sampled tones, and after an opening with an extended orchestral outburst, the texture turns thin and eerie as the synthesizer comes to the fore -- gentle, clicking, insectile noises and a wash of distorted flutes.

In 1995 Bridge released a disc with five Felder titles (BCD 9049). These show that he has been an assured composer for quite some time. This CD also underscores some preoccupations that appear in the more recent works. Journal, for orchestra, starts with an active, even calisthenic line similar to Six Poems. Journal's opening keeps to a handful of wide and dissonant intervals, and, like both versions of Coleccion Nocturna, there's a point where the pulse relaxes and the outward-looking music changes character. A short brass quintet, Canzone XXXI, is neatly scored so that it sounds like more than five players, and the Arditti Quartet plays Third Face, which juxtaposes jumpy and angular melodic lines built from similar intervals against long, slow contours. November Sky, for flutes and computer-processed sounds, finds treasure in the classic (perhaps even cliché) combination of electronic and synthesized flute, but then the electronic palette begins to open like a wedge. The disc ends with another orchestral work inspired by words, Three Lines from Twenty Poems.


American Record Guide, Nov/Dec, 2001

EMF 133 Felder/Feldman

June in Buffalo is a festival of exploration and activity where fans of contemporary music may satisfy their desires for good performances of same. Morton Feldman is a known quantity. He used to be the focal point of the festival -- today David Felder runs it. It has been going on for twenty-five years now and the musical results are impressive. Felder's music is as manic and dense as Feldman's is meditative and sparse, yet they have a certain point in common and make a good contrast with each other. Feldman's viola piece played with polish by Levine is not the work previously recorded by Karen Tuttle; hence the different number. This is all large scale orchestral music although it doesn't make conventional orchestral sounds, ranging from chamber music through to improvisatory-like textures. The sound is full bodied and the playing is effective.


Rochester City Magazine, November, 2001

EMF 133 Felder/Feldman

David Felder and Morton Feldman would be neighbors in a music dictionary, but they were also friends in real life; teaching at SUNY, Buffalo, and intimately involved with the school's June in Buffalo contemporary music festival. (Felder still is; Feldman died in 1987.) Musically, these two Americans don't have much in common other than excellence. Felder's music is dark, uncompromising, and violent in inspiration, and sometimes unleashes a ferocious energy. Alternating as it does on this CD, with Feldman's quiescent but taut style, reminds me of a razor blade floating on a still pool of water.

The June in Buffalo orchestra is the pick up group to end all pick up groups, an assemblage of proven new-music virtuosi. Jean Kopperud, the clarinetist in Felder's Coleccion Nocturna, and Jesse Levine, as one of the violas in Feldman's life, are staggering. As with Mode's recent David Felder collection, this is essential, if hardly easy, listening.

David Raymond


The Los Angeles Reader, August, 2001

EMF 133 Felder/Feldman

Morton Feldman's music demands deep listening; the four hours on the edge of silence of his For Philip Guston do not reveal their secrets the first time around. His series of four pieces collectively titled The Viola in My Life provides a more accessible entrée; I would call the last of these - at hand on a new disc on the EMF (Electronic Music Foundation) label - truly beautiful.

The solo viola spins its web: short melodic curves swooping down and up, against bursts of orchestral commentary. I don't want to belabor the spider analogy, but the sense of dimension in this work, of forces in motion in the near and far distance, and - as in all of Feldman's work - of the shards of silence alternating with soft, mysterious sounds can hold you spellbound over a 20-minute span (as in this work) or over the four hours of Guston. Feldman's Instruments II, also on the disc, similarly seeks to weld sounds and silences into a consistent linear experience but does so, to these ears, less successfully. It's the viola that connects the dots and provides the exhilaration in the first work - in Feldman's life and, through him, in ours.

The performances are from David Felder's excellent June in Buffalo Festival, with Jesse Levine the solo violist and an orchestra assembled from the new-music performing nobility worldwide. Felder, formerly of UC-San Diego, has two works on this disc as well - aggressive, intense works that form glistening, rounded surfaces where Feldman aims toward flat planes. Heard together, these four works - the two by Felder interspersed with the two by Feldman - form an absorbing, often exhilarating display of great contemporary spirits at work.

Alan Rich


New Music Connoisseurs

David Felder: In Between, Coleccion Nocturna
Morton Feldman: Instruments II, The Viola in My Life IV

The long running June in Buffalo summer festival has seen two directors over its 25-year history. This disc contains music for orchestra and chamber orchestra (with and without soloists) composed by both these individuals, Morton Feldman and David Felder.

The latte's selections are widely spaced chronologically. Coleccion Nocturna (1983-84) is essentially a double concerto, featuring a highly prominent solo part for a clarinetist (playing bass and soprano instruments) and a somewhat more subsidiary one for pianist. The piece exists in versions with backing by either chamber orchestra or tape, and it's the former that appears here (the smaller-scale one is found recorded on the Mode label CD ...a pressure triggering dreams...). The sound world is unabashedly East Coast, though quite colorfully scored and mindful of dramatic shaping. Clarinet writing is especially showy, shot through with klezmer inspired special effects such as wide vibrato and pitch bends. Written fifteen years later, In Between demonstrates a softening of the Atlantic seaboard sonics to include triadic entities and a further heightened sense of gripping profile. The featured percussion part is less a true solo line than a semi prominent obbligato, emerging periodically from the surrounding textures like an occasionally breaching whale sighted during a harbor cruise. In some ways, it can be seen as a response of sorts to vintage items from Feldman's oeuvre, consisting primarily of slowly unfolding vertical events that are varied and enhanced by vibrant orchestration and filigree. Structurally, the work traces a four-part format, with two large climactic peak areas preceded by more laid back material, the whole winding up in a brief atmospheric coda. Both are excellent listens.

Feldman's pieces, though composed within a few years of each other during the early 1970's, show significant differences. Instruments II (1975), for a chamber ensemble largely bereft of strings, is the sort of work one typically associates with this vanguard minimalist: unrelentingly soft in dynamics and concerned texturally with largely unadorned dissonant chords surrounded by silences, scattering occasional disjunct melodic fragments throughout. The usage of horizontal motion by half step (at times interspersing major seconds), both in the small tune snippets and chord progressions, serves as an effective unifying device. Scored for full orchestra and viola soloist, The Viola in My Life IV (1971) makes more conspicuous use of melodic gestures, not only in the solo part but in the accompaniment as well (note the recurring pizzicato fragments in the cello and contrabass, as an example). And while still prevailingly quiet, the piece does rouse itself to put forth some sections marked "forte." In this sense, it hearkens back to Feldman's earlier output such as Rothko Chapel. Both works possess this compose's signature intuitive-yet-perfectly-right sense of balance and pacing. They're essential works, as is true of most Feldman.

Performances are excellent. Top shelf efforts are turned in by soloists Daniel Druckman (percussion), Jean Kopperud (clarinets), Jesse Levine (viola), and James Winn (piano). The June in Buffalo Orchestra (a freelance group cobbling together regularly performing guests of this festival), ably led by Harvey Sollberger and Jan Williams, puts forth a well drilled, sensitive sound. Both production and sonics are professional all the way. This fine disc is very strongly recommended.

David Cleary


International Computer Music Association

Orchestral Works by David Felder and Morton Feldman

This CD of orchestral works was recorded during the 2000 June in Buffalo Festival. Both composers whose works are represented on this recording have a long history and close ties to the festival. The first series of concerts, lectures, and masterclasses, begun by then-SUNY Buffalo faculty member Morton Feldman, occurred in 1975. In 1985, David Felder joined the Buffalo faculty and resumed the festival, which was not held from 1980 to 1985.

David Felder's music creates and exists in a world with multiple possibilities. The inviting and well-played-out drama of In Between (1999) unfolds through extended timbral gestures, loud, forceful entrances, and, as the piece progresses, increasingly frequent melodic passages. Felder creates varied, rich, dense and beautiful sounds from the orchestra. Although many of the textures are thick and at times are active, busy, and loud, the integrity of the parts is maintained. Felder makes good use of the expanded dynamic range of the orchestra, using its full forces or a pair of instruments in turn. There are a few instances of materials so cliché as to be near-parody. Given the context of the work as a whole -- its overall serious delivery, and the solid construction of the work -- these moments are obtrusive and somewhat perplexing.

In Between is scored for four percussionists: three in the orchestra, and a soloist. As the work progresses, the percussion solo part, performed fantastically by Daniel Druckman, becomes more prominent and more traditionally 'soloistic.' Larger gestures are described by the orchestra part. The percussion adds much of the horizontal motion with fast-moving melodic details. Although not disclosed in the liner notes, the concert program mentions that a KAT midi controller is used. Given some of the unique timbres in the orchestra, an uninformed listener may not be aware that some of the sounds in the work are electronic, especially when heard as a recording.

Coleccion Nocturna (1983-1984) was completed 15 years before In Between, and features two soloists, clarinetist Jean Kopperud and pianist James Winn. Winn's playing is solid. He executes technically demanding passages with ease, and gives careful attention to detail. However, the piano part is often overshadowed by the more involved and dramatic clarinet solo part. Kopperud's playing on soprano and bass clarinets is powerful. She shapes Felder's inventive melodic lines -- strings of microtonal undulations, repeated attacks, tremolos, wide leaps, extremes in register, and more traditional melodies -- into wonderfully well-shaped phrases. Felder does a brilliant job of weaving solo textures in and out of full orchestra sections. I find that this work makes a more creative use of the orchestra, implementing greater variety in texture, gesture, line lengths, and counterpoint.

Morton Feldman's The Viola in My Life IV was written in 1971, shortly after the composer resumed using traditional notation. The orchestral music is sparse, floating, and beautifully colored. Especially in the context of the accompaniment, the viola lines are highly dramatic and wonderfully profound, pure and honest. Viola soloist Jesse Levine performs the work beautifully. Although some may disagree with the use of such a rich vibrato in this particular piece, it is quite tasteful. His phrases are finely shaped and supple, and his tone is gorgeous.

Instruments II (1975) omits strings from the orchestra entirely, enriching the ensemble's timbral palette instead with woodwind doublings -- alto flute, English horn, and bass clarinet. Often the focus of the melodic material, chromatic lines are at times passed around the orchestra, sometimes with large changes in register. Feldman, a master of building immense spaces using small sounds, does so wonderfully in this piece. In Feldman's sonic vocabulary, each sound event is carefully constructed so that it dangles loosely suspended from what precedes and what follows.

Harvey Sollberger, well known as a composer, conductor, and flutist, leads the orchestra for the Felder works. The Viola in My Live IV and Instruments II are conducted by Feldman's long-time colleague, percussionist and conductor Jan Williams. The level of playing in the orchestra is very high, and the featured soloists are excellent. In Feldman's works, the dynamics alone can present several challenges for the musicians, and I feel that the orchestra is occasionally much louder than the composer probably intended.

This CD will be welcomed by Feldman admirers, and will also be much appreciated by those not yet familiar with the works of David Felder. Based on the latest industry listings, this CD seems to contain the only published recordings of each of these four pieces. Recorded at the 25th anniversary of the first June in Buffalo Festival, this is a wonderful collection of skillfully executed, well-written compositions. A much deserved congratulations to the organizers, composers, and performers of the June In Buffalo Festival.

Linda Antas


Fanfare Magazine, July/August 2002

David Felder: A Pressure Triggering Dreams, Colleccion Nocturna, Six Poems from Neruda's Alturas

Magnus Mårtensson and Harvey Sollberger, conductors; Jean Kopperud, clarinet and bass clarinet; James Wenn, piano; June in Buffalo Festival Orchestra.

I find I am growing ever fonder of David Felder's music. I first encountered it by accident when I bought the recently-reviewed recording of Morton Feldman's Instruments II and The Viola in My Life IV on EMF. At the time I bought it, I confess to being disappointed that a rare recording of Feldman's orchestral output was not all Feldman, but Felder's music is terrific stuff, music I would be substantially poorer for not knowing. Felder's aesthetic is about as far removed from that of Feldman as can be imagined. In some respects it recalls both the work of Elliott Carter and, oddly enough, Alfred Schnittke, particularly in its reliance on poetic inspiration for what are formidably abstract forms and being very much concerned with traditional notions of rhetoric despite the very aggressive harmonic language. (Felder's work, perhaps mercifully, lacks the great Russian's black humor undercutting the power of his utterance with crude musical jokes, as if to remind us of just how artificial and arbitrary, in the end, all art must be.) While I don't suppose anyone would necessarily consider the music tuneful, Felder's melodic structures recall their distant tonal ancestors. This and his sure sense of rhythmic construction gives the music tremendous forward motion. Beyond that, he as a stunning sense of instrumental color whether in the pieces for full orchestra or the single chamber work heard here.

The most immediately accessible work is Six Poems from Neruda's Alturas for large orchestra from 1992-3. The six poems (of twelve) Felder used as inspiration are not reprinted here, a definite blot on the production end of the recording. He deployed them unequally over the works' three movements which fall into a conventional fast-slow-fast sequence. Beyond that, like the other two works here, the piece is actually an extended set of variations on a fragment from another work by Felder. That method of construction, while not in any way audible, at least to my ears, is undoubtedly part of what gives the music its sure continuity. Six Poems..., in the violence of its outer movements and the uneasy calm of the central one can also call to mind another of the twentieth century's great orchestral works, Honneger's Symphonie Liturgique. I have no hesitation in putting the present work in the same class and the performance by the June in Buffalo Festival Orchestra under Magnus Mårtensson is virtuosity personified.

Coleccion Nocturna (1982-3) is also inspired by a poem by Neruda. Jan Williams, in his notes to the EMF recording, quoted the composer's description of the poem, powerfully evocative images of a surreal nocturnal landscape, great distance, both physical and spiritual, and a world rich in energy and exhausted isolation. That pretty much gets it right. Scored for clarinets, piano, tape and optional orchestra (recorded in the latter form on the EMF disc), it is a virtuoso work for two extraordinary instrumentalists, something on the order of Peter Maxwell Davies astonishing Hymnos. Again Felder's extravagant sense of instrumental color comes into full play, here abetted by the addition of a four channel tape. This allows him to seduce over a wide range of moods where the harshness of the harmonic language or the extravagance of the playing techniques might seem forbidding but rarely is. Both versions have much to recommend them and they are sufficiently different in effect to necessitate hearing both.

A Pressure Triggering Dreams (1996-7), the title derived from Nietzsche, was written in answer to a commission for a work for orchestra involving electronics. Although written in a single movement, it also follows within the fast-slow-fast framework of the earlier Six Poems... Unlike, say, the use of computer processed sound in the works of composers like Boulez, Nono, or Saariaho, Felder uses his collection of samplers, mostly programmed with flute sounds, more in the manner of Messiaen's use of the ondes martenot, as another color available in his already enormous orchestral palette. Again, the combination of striking orchestral sound combined with the composer's sure sense of musical form carry the listener along sufficiently to bring him or her back a second, a third, a fourth time to discover just what there is here. The orchestral performance, this time under Harvey Sollberger, is again a miracle of brilliantly recorded orchestral color, beautifully capturing the composer's rare rhythmic drive, something notoriously difficult to achieve in music of such complex harmonic construction. This is remarkably rewarding music, tough but ultimately quite accessible to anyone with open ears. I would have preferred reprints of the Neruda poetry with translation to Felder's program note explaining why he is not fond of program notes, but that is the only blot on an outstanding issue. Firmly recommended.

John Story


The New Music Connoisseur, Spring 2001

David Felder: a pressure triggering dreams...

David Felder is a faculty member at SUNY Buffalo and longtime director of the June in Buffalo festival. On this fine CD, the composer draws inspiration for his work from the poety of Pableo Neruda and writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Musically, these pieces show a refining and broadening of the East Coast dissonant style, specifically descending from the dramatic wing of the genre. Elements from the oeuvre of Dalliapiccola, Martino, serial Rochberg, and Sessions can be noted, but Felder fashions a compelling voice of his own here. While astringent verticals are often heard, more triadic constructs (including occasional forays into frankly tonal idioms) are encountered with frequency. His instrumental writing is virtuostic (at times stunningly so), most notably in the clarinet part of Coleccion Nocturna (1982-83); here one finds tasteful use of extended techniques, including color shift fingerings, wide vibrato, pitch bends, and glissandi, as well as challenging traditional passagework on occasion suggesting a delightfully demented take on Klezmer stylings. Scoring in the two orchestral compositions is both luminous and highly effective. And, in best Mario Davidovsky fashion, Felder mixes electronic material into his textures most effectively. In Coleccion, socred for clarinet/bass clarinet, piano, and tape, the last two entities meld wonderfully with each other to suggest a colorful "super piano." The orchestral entitiy a pressuer triggering dreams (1997) employs samples and tape as well as electric bass and selective amplification of various ensemble members to excellent effect, giving the impression (not often encountered in pieces of this type) that these disparate elements belong together in the same stewpot. And such necessities as form and balance are not neglected. Coleccion is cast as an effective set of variations while a pressure describes a nicely wrought ternary strucutre. Felder takes his biggesr risks in this regard with the purely orchestral number Six Poems from Neruda's "Alturas..." (1992-93). One might expect that its lopsided tripartite construction, consisting of a short cataclysmic opener, lenghty pensive center, and mid duration outgoing finale shouldn't work at all -but somehow, Felder manages to pull it off with aplomb. The fact that this composition (as well as the others) unfolds fascinatingly is no small part of its success.

Performances are excellent. Clarinetist Jean Kopperud is sensational, navigating her part in Coleccion stunnigly well, with James Winn turning in a yeoman piano job of his own. The June in Buffalo Orchestra, conducted by Magnus Mårtensson and Harvey Solberger, is top notch. Production is fine. Sound quality is good on the symphonic entries, a bit swallowed on Coleccion. This is a splendid release of music by a talented, highly accomplished composer, very strongly recommended.

David Cleary


Classical Music on the Web (UK)

David Felder: a pressure triggering dreams

The American Composer David Felder (b.1953) is, sadly, neither well known nor widely performed in Europe, despite the fact that some of his earlier chamber works have been presented at many of the top festivals for contemporary music, be it the Holland Festival, Huddersfield, Wien Modern or Darmstadt.

In recent years, his writing turned more and more towards big, uncompromising and extremely difficult orchestra pieces with the result that those works are hardly ever played even in the States. Orchestras want to have an easy life and rehearsal time for demanding contemporary works is generally counted in minutes rather than hours. Recently, Felder commented: "My music is very difficult and as I like to say, it is not coming to your town soon." But his time will come and if it is only because great music has always come to light and can not be suppressed. By now, orchestras have learned, how to play Mahler, Ives and, more or less against their will, even Birtwistle. If the big ones want to survive, they will have to learn, how to cope with music that does not crawl on all fours before an orchestra or an audience.

David Felder, who in his youth belonged to the tenor voices of the Cleveland Symphony Choir (Music Director Pierre Boulez), sitting right behind the middle of the brass section, and who, simultaneously, ran his own radio station and earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, in 1983. His interest in electronics led to his being labelled an electronic composer, which is utter nonsense. For many years, Felder has taught composition at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he also holds the Birge-Carry Chair in Composition. Since 1985 he leads and directs the Festival "June in Buffalo", a weeklong seminar for emerging young composers; from 1992 to 1996 he had been composer-in-residence to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, while in 1996 he formed the Slee Sinfonietta, one of the very few chamber orchestras in the USA entirely devoted to contemporary music.

His works are published by Theodore Presser; his first CD containing various chamber music had been released on the Bridge Label in 1996, and was named "disc of the year" in chamber music by the American Record Guide. His second CD, released this June on the mode label, confronts the listener with two of Felder's most complex and outstanding works for orchestra, Six Poems from Neruda's Alturas.(1992-93) and a pressure triggering dreams (1996-97) as well as the chamber version of Coleccion Nocturna (1982-83) for clarinet, bass-clarinet, piano and 4-channel tape.

Having listened to those three works over and over I am always astonished that, despite the wide-ranging changes in dynamics and colours, any so called 'contemporary' smack is missing entirely. It is music for the 21st century, true to itself, extremely powerful, honest and full of discovery.

"Coleccion Nocturna", the title of a poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, whose thinking had a profound influence on Felder, consists of five variations, based on a theme from an earlier work. They mirror a kind of electrifying tension as well as a crystallization of emotions, 19 minutes of foremost constantly changing musical perspectives, which despite the technical demands speak with an extraordinary directness. Six Poems from Neruda's 'Alturas... had been commissioned by the NewYork State Council on the Arts and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1994, the work had its European premiere during the Festival of the International Society of Contemporary Music in Stockholm. For this recording as well as for the recording of a pressure triggering dreams David Felder was able to use the June in Buffalo Orchestra, dedicated and committed virtuoso players fromall over the States and Canada, assembled each year for the Festival June in Buffalo.

The result is just breathtaking. Neruda may have triggered the first and decisive impulse, but it is the music, which captivates instantly. Suddenly, the complex compositional structure becomes irrelevant; there is ingenious music in its purest sense, which with its sheer power, aesthetics and depth doesnot ask any theoretical questions, but wants to be listened to many times. The overflowing evocative tension, the sensual atmosphere, the sometimes depressive, but soon again playful gestures as well as the sublime irony in all three movements breathe an incredible tenseness. Felder combines his deep knowledge of the past and the present with a constant searching on a philosophical, human and musical level - a Gustav Mahler for the 21st century. Those 25 minutes confront us with all the inner dimensions of the human existence. Despite its performing difficulties - originally even Mahler had been rejected as unplayable by certain orchestras - this work earns a constant place in the repertoire of any great orchestra.

a pressure triggering dreams, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra with there quest to incorporate electronics, had its premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall in May 1997. The full orchestra sound is complemented by a companion 'orchestra' consisting entirely of computer-processed flute sounds, by live sampler keyboards, electric bass and by selectively amplified solo instruments. For Felder, some quotes from Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy serve as a kind ofmental godfather. But any literal impulse as well as any compositional detail are secondary compared to the overwhelming unfolding of the musical impact - 20 minutes of fulfilled music, which absorbed the past and creates on the basis of an universal view of life new and fascinating energies.

This technically impeccable recording, conducted by Magnus Mårtensson and Harvey Sollberger under the supervision of the composer, should ease the way for David Felder to be heard live on Europeanconcert platforms.

Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt


Dansk Musiktijdskrift, October 2000

Here in Denmark, the possibilities to find new American music on CD are surprisingly poor. Is it because sales and export over there are more commonly done over the internet than in Europe. Here is, however, a CD from mode records, that I previously knew through Cage releases, with three works by David Felder.

Felder is Professor of Composition at SUNY Buffalo, and his professional craftsmanship is immediately displayed from the first seconds of Six Poems from 1993, where one is suddenly surprised by an effect-full, hard edged orchestral writing. In what follows, the listener quickly understands that David Felder has an impressive ability to establish a sound universe, in which one is taken through every corner of experience, with Felder's special love for the brutally hammered, dramatic contrasts, thrilling effects (as in film music), and with a well developed formal thread in the shape of long, expansive melodic lines.

The work sounds like a contemporary variant of the tone language that was established with Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra Op.16, from 1909. That, which at the time was the beginning of something new, is here presented in an established shape, with the musical conquests of the 20th century as background. We are dealing with a combination of a well known expressionistic tradition, and something immediate, and elemental, that cannot escape making an impression. Interestingly enough, Felder emphasizes the fact that the work is based on a fragment that was intuitively composed, and that was used as an "ur-source," in that all material in the piece is obtained from this source, and that it is continuously present saturating all layers of the composition.This technique seems immediately parallel to the discovery/invention of dodecaphony three quarters of a century ago.

Of course, it is not a re-invention of the deeper palate. Felder knows both dodecaphony and its history. His music can serve as an excellent example of the desire for the unification of compositional principles, when it comes to single works, groups of works, or, in general, for the entire output, that has been present in so many of the composers of the last decades of the 20th century. Dodecaphony and serialism are here a precondition for the unfolding of individual creativity. To meet the works on this CD, that all arouse the traces of the historical establishment of all subsequent expressionistic bases, is both a peculiar and a thought provoking experience.

There is not for a moment a doubt that these three works are contemporary music. Such is also true for Coleccion Nocturna, for clarinet, piano, and tape (1982), and a pressure triggering dreams (1997). In the former, we meet a chamber musical version of the language in Six Poems, whose full title indicates its inspiration from Pablo Neruda's poetry. This inspiration is also the basis for Coleccion Nocturna, in which we hear the melodic lines in a hovering polyphonic universe with the clarinet as the guide. In a pressure..., the inspiration comes from Nietsche- the title is an expression of Nietsche's thoughts about Wagner's music and its consequences on the listener. The orchestra is here supplemented by computer processed flute sounds and amplified-effects. What we hear here is not a synthesis between natural and synthetically processed sounds, but an effect-full `concertino' -- an orchestra within the orchestra. This creates an almost schizophrenic experience, which supports the tension-filled, compressed character. There are not many resting points in this work, which is filled with contrasts and violent explosions.

In all, David Felder's music is filled with an immediate appeal and is penetrated by an outstanding control of compositional techniques. The performances on this CD are on that same level.


Rochester City Magazine, August 22, 2000

Readers of City will recall that David Felder is the director of the June in Buffalo contemporary music festival. As if that didn't put him solidly enough on the side of the angels, Felder's own music is wonderfully accomplished stuff.

Felder's inspiration for these three works (written between 1982 and 1997) is literary -- poems of Pablo Neruda, and Friedrich Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy -- but his music is mighty eloquent on its own. All three of these pieces are sizable and complicated, but their construction is clear and telling, they are full of beautiful and unexpected (and electronic) touches, and their braininess is balanced by emotional power. With their racketing dissonance and emotional extremes (spelled by passages of exquisite, eerie quiet), these pieces are not easy listening -- the two orchestral works, Six Poems, and a pressure triggering dreams, are overwhelming. Felder's music grabs your attention immediately, but when its over, you really feel like you've been somewhere. That's a rare, valuable gift in this giggly, postmodern age.

"All three works are shockingly difficult to play," Felder admits in the note for this recording, but the players here are solid gold (Jean Kopperud, the clarinetist in Coleccion Nocturna, is downright amazing) and so is the engineering, particularly the orchestral pieces. This is easily the most exciting new-music disc I've heard this year.

David Raymond


Sequenza21 webzine

Editor's Choice for September, 2000

David Felder gets a chance to show what he can do with orchestra in this brilliant recording and the results are amazing. These brilliant compositions show why David Felder just might be America's most underrated composer.


American Record Guide, volume 63, #6, November, 2000 (excerpt)

Coleccion Nocturna (1983) is the earliest of Felder's Neruda pieces recorded to date (there are many others, according to the notes, but most have yet to be issued on CD). It is a set of five "variations" on what Felder calls, "a wholly self-contained musical object" from man older piano work called Rocket Summer. The "theme" never seems to be presented clearly in its entirety, but what is clear is that diatonic fragments are heard trying to poke their way through five contrasting, modernistically surreal textures...

The Six Poems from Neruda's Alturas (1992-3) for orchestra is three movements based on six of the cycle of twelve poems in Neruda's searching cycle, Alturas de Macchu Picchu. This time, Felder assigns specific poems to each movement. I is a rugged, fearsome, explosion based upon poem 2 that seems to reflect the text's anger and anguish. II (based upon poems 1, 3, 4, and 5) is a landscape of desolate beauty filled with lush harmonic expanses -- there is a raucous climax about one-third of the way through, but for the most part this movement is thoughtful and has authentic depth. Here Felder truly seems to plunge "a turbulent and tender hand to the most secret organs of the earth", in the words of Neruda. Some of these "secret organs" seem to be references to Felder's earlier works, a procedure that Neruda himself employed in the construction of his cycle. Their presence here, if that's what they are, gives the movement a mysterious, dream-like atmosphere that at once invites and eludes further investigation. III returns to the rugged atmosphere of I and ends with a powerful cataclysm based on the rhythms of poem 9...

The final piece is A Pressure Triggering Dreams for orchestra and electronics (1997), written in response to a commission from the American Composers Orchestra, who asked for the inclusion of electronics. These take the form of computer-processed flute sounds, sampler keyboard (percussion), electric bass, and selectively amplified solo instruments--in other words they seek to augment the "real" orchestra rather than conflict with them. In the outer sections, long lines that are essentially monophonic in nature are surrounded by graffiti-like interferences producing an anxiety-ridden cacophony reminding me of Turnage (I guess these sections are the "pressure")...

Felder is a strong composer with impressive technique. Though its not immediately obvious, he can be heard as a neo-romantic who is not afraid of using an expanded and often extremely dissonant harmonic palette. I would like to see him find a balance between aggression and intensity; his taste for intransigent sonorities has a tendency to get in the way of what are fundamentally clearly conceived and arrestingly executed compositions. Performances and sonics are astonishing.



Neue Musikzeitung

The Music of David Felder

David Felder (1953) is currently one ofthe leading independent and most uncompromising American composersof his generation. Presently Professor and Coordinator of Compositionat the State University of New York at Buffalo, he is also responsiblefor the Artistic direction of June in Buffalo, a festival foremerging composers for many years. From 1992 until 1996 he hasclosely worked with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as thecomposer in residence.

In his own words, his evolution as a composerhas been influenced by Roger Reynolds, Donald Erb, Bernard Rands,Robert Erickson and David Cope. Nevertheless, these influencesmust be understood exclusively in relation to the purely technicalprocess including incorporation of NeXT-Computers. There is inthe case of David Felder and his personal and particular powerfullanguage, then, rather the influence of probably the whole band-widthof European music, however under the light of a new century.

It would be possible to extract a philosophy from the unbroken thread appearing through the chamber music-like five pieces represented as an example: the dazzling antagonism between dangerous and graceful activity, and static, distanced tranquility; the complexity and virtuosity in the handling of the ensemble and instrument; finally, the varied harmonic "colorfulness". Immediate access to this music that does not compromise or subordinate to a "saleable" idiom is undeniable; as well, its unique strength/power and vitality creates a sound-aesthetic full of sensual eruptions. This is especially true for the two pieces for chamber orchestra Three Lines from Twenty Poems (1987) and Journal (1990). In these pieces, David Felder proves himself not only as a composer that knows how to concentrate and use the subtle nuances of the instruments, but also as a composer that can use at the same time an extreme sense for the right balance between different tension-fields. November Sky (1992), for flute, incorporates the addition of a NeXT Computer to bring to reality a multi-layered, enhanced, sound-variability; (it is) an "in and out swelling" Lied of more than 16 minutes of duration in contrast exchange of Joyfulness and melancholy. The movement for string quartet, Third Face (1988-98), startles through its unpretentious aggressiveness and drama, in which the few quiet passages contribute to the intensification of the climax rather than the relaxation. With Canzone XXXI (1993), Felder devotes himself to the refreshingly direct manner of the Brass Music of the 16th century Venetian tradition. these few examples show a directness free from any coercion, individualistic, and dictated exclusively by the suggestive power of the music. A voice whose weight is accentuated by this technically balanced and interpretatively captivating CD.