In 2020, A Chorus of Praise for David Felder’s “Les Quatres Temps Cardinaux”

Album cover of BMOP's recording of David Felder's, "Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux"

The extended work for orchestra, vocal soloists, and electronics, has received substantial critical attention this year, due in part to the recent release of a stunning recording of the work by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.


Although Professor Felder’s Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux (“The Four Cardinal Times”) was premiered in 2013, a recording of the work by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) released earlier this year has finally brought the work to the attention of a wider circle of critics, bloggers, and enthusiasts. The work, which was commissioned by the Serge Koussevitky Foundation, plays out on a large scale in four parts over nearly an hour. 

“Lush, wild and fierce…the most exciting music I’ve heard in two decades” writes James H. North in Fanfare Magazine. “There are few works that announce their stature in their opening bars, such as Beethoven’s Third and Fifth Symphonies…LQTC is one of them.” The work’s prologue is a controlled and fantastic ascent: Soprano Laura Aikin’s voice emerges from a shadowy spectral haze, pulling the orchestra up ever higher, into a light so brilliant, so intense, it nearly blinds.

Among the reviews there is a common sentiment that LQTC is a seminal achievement whose grasp extends well beyond Felder’s own career. Robert Carl wrote, also in Fanfare Magazine, “All the positive impressions [I had of Felder’s music] still didn’t prepare me for this work, which is a true summa, a life-statement that shows stunning ambition and imagination. At its core is a poem by René Daumal, which the composer splits up and distributes in separate movements throughout the piece...Obviously there are progenitors here—one immediately thinks of Das Lied von der Erde, and Boulez’s Pli Selon Pli…and this piece often rises to a level of inspiration to challenge these models.”

The “four cardinal times” of the work are also represented by the four cardinal directions. In addition to the text by twentieth century French poet Rene Daumal (east), LQTC makes use of poetry by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (south), California poet Dana Goia (west), and Buffalo’s own Robert Creely (north). But what Felder does with the texts is all his own. In Classical Modern Music, Grego Applegate adds that, “Felder gives us a uniquely personal reflection in a work that wears the cloak of our present time in a manner one can only hope future generations will look back upon with approval. This is a milestone work in heartfully moving performance.”

The new BMOP album is one of two available commercial recordings of the work. In the eminent new music blog Sequenza 21, Christian Carey claims that the 2015 Covellio recording, “which was made by Ensemble Signal with members of SUNY Buffalo’s Slee Sinfonietta, focuses with granularity of detail, whereas the BMOP rendition stresses the dramatic sweep of the piece.” He goes on to say that LQTC “is a formidable entry into Felder’s catalogue of works. And adds that, “hopefully, Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux will be followed by more vocal music from Felder”.

You can read more about the piece on David Felder’s website, and the recording is available for purchase on both the BMOP website, and wherever albums are sold.


Published October 21, 2020