Symphony No. 7 in B minor Unfinished
Violin and Orchestra
Franz Schubert’s engagement with large-scale symphonic orchestral form was a long struggle against obstacles and setbacks. Over the course of several attempts, he fought to emerge from the shadow of Ludwig van Beethoven. In 1822, Schubert embarked on a new symphonic project in the key of B minor, an untypically dark key for the genre. Later known as Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony”, it was a perfect reply to the symphonic works of Beethoven.
Morton Feldman held Schubert in high esteem, not least for the atmospheric power of his music. Feldman liberated his own music from the formal obligations and dogmas of both historical tradition and contemporary music with great consistency. He prioritised pure sound: “I began to feel that the sounds were not concerned with my ideas of symmetry and design, that they wanted to sing of other things. They wanted to live, and I was stifling them.” Morton Feldman discovered a totally unique approach to the task of connecting these sounds in a temporal progression.
He needed a certain intimacy to bind his long works, as he once put it. He achieved this through filigree work on details in a multitude of small chamber-music cells, which he arranged in highly varied combinations of orchestral instruments. And – as an expert on oriental rugs – he wove in irregularities as conscious weave-errors. “In other words, when I write long pieces, I make some strange moves, but only for a moment,” he explained. Morton Feldman’s Violin and Orchestra, from 1979, is his longest orchestral work, lasting over an hour. He regarded Violin and Orchestra as “a lecture on how to keep a piece going through the variation of all parameters”.
Isabelle Faust, one of the pre-eminent violinists of our times, is equally at home in contemporary music as in the classical-romantic repertoire. She knows Violin and Orchestra as few other soloists do, having performed the work since 2001 in major European venues, and recorded it on CD. Her partners onstage at the Musikfest Berlin 2012 are the Konzerthausorchester and conductor Emilio Pomárico.