Published June 1, 2020
This has been a busy year for David Felder.
The SUNY Distinguished Professor of Music and Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition has transformed the internationally acclaimed June in Buffalo festival from a live concert and conference event to a remote Zoom presentation.
Completing that adaptation in a few short weeks was a whirlwind, but he can add the release of three new portrait recordings to the success resulting from all that hurried festival planning. The portrait discs, a term used for recordings that feature the work of a single composer, is an achievement of creative output equal to that of an author publishing three new critically acclaimed books all in the same year.
It adds up to a remarkable 2020 for Felder, “a one-man conservatory” who has taught and mentored more than 80 PhD composers while establishing himself as a force in new music as a composer, administrator and advocate, according to Fanfare Magazine
Though it might seem like time to enjoy the moment ─ with June in Buffalo beginning today ─ Felder isn’t quite ready to take a break, despite the accomplishments.
“These last few months have been a lot,” says Felder, whose major orchestral piece “Die Dämmerungen” received its world premiere in October of last year in a pair of performances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. “Let’s just say that I’m looking forward to eventually hitting the golf course.”
Felder’s works on these new CDs blend intriguing forms — strong, yet graceful — that bring swirling modern harmonies, timbres and electronics together in delightfully sculpted innovative pieces. These are master works by a very mature artist, fluent in the language he has developed over decades as one of the leading composers of his generation.
The first of the three discs, “Jeu de Tarot” (Tarot Deck), features a collaboration with British violinist Irvine Arditti, the most famous violinist today specializing in contemporary music, in a 30-minute chamber violin concerto based on seven of the 22 main tarot cards. Also included are his third string quartet, Netivot, for the Arditti String Quartet, and a solo violin piece, for Arditti.
Reviewers have commented how the work reveals Felder’s mystical side, with each movement serving as an interpretation of a character on a tarot card.
The next two discs are both recordings of Felder’s “Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux” (The Four Cardinal Times), commissioned by the Serge Koussevitky Foundation for large chamber orchestra with electronics.
The two different recordings of this major 50-minute work were made in separate halls, each one year apart, and offer different perspectives under different circumstances.
One disc, just out now, with the New York-based Signal Ensemble and UB’s Slee Sinfonietta — recorded as part of the 2015 June in Buffalo — is an extraordinarily accurate and dramatic rendition, which one critic called “granular in its detail.”
A second disc, released in January, by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) conducted by Gil Rose, features UB alumna Laura Aikin, whose soaring soprano is the perfect antipode for the deep resonance of Ethan Herchenfeld’s bass. Felder composed the soprano lines to feature the extraordinary vocal abilities of Aikin and collaborated extensively with her in the creative process.
Music mingles with the sonic, imagistic and linguistic qualities of texts Felder has added to the central poem “Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux” by Rene Daumal. Poems by Buffalo’s Robert Creely, Pablo Neruda and Dana Gioia complement the central poem. Electronics wrap around the vowels, while consonants meet percussion. The Surround Sound recordings capture the 12 channels of electronics to envelop listeners in an experience that richly represents the sonic sphere of the music.
“These are big works, extremely well-played and represented,” says Felder. “They represent the culmination of the work I’ve done in 45 years of composition.”
Published June 1, 2020