When Morton Feldman asked Samuel Beckett to provide text for an opera, in a humorously touching meeting in 1976, he described what he wanted as something hovering. That's what he got several weeks later, and the music he provided follows suit, but there's so much more to this 50-minute monodrama, given an excellent reading on this reissue.
To say that Neither is an opera is to miss its innovations. All of the music, vocal and orchestral, derives from a very small kernel of material; while this is not uncommon for latter-day Feldman, there is a certain intensity that ebbs and flows as the drama unfolds which other Feldman works don't exhibit in the same way. The music pulses with the irregularities and recurrences of life, repeating themes whose contexts are always changing. Leonard's voice is perfect for the part, digging into single-note intonations that often fan out into two or three-note phrases, replete with space. Her longer lines always manage to stay focused around the important notes, the recurrences on which the whole moves forward.
The playing of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Pesko's conducting, is magnificent. As with Leonard, they penetrate to the heart of the work, allowing it to bloom and grow while maintaining a certain restraint that must be part of any worthy Feldman performance.
It should go without saying that the recording and production are first-rate. As with all Hat releases, there is a certain transparency to the sound that allows textural clarity to emerge. As the opening chord fragments is reconfigured and fragments again, each detail is present without obscuring any others. No, this is not easy listening, but there's something so immediate, even accessible, about it, and all elements work together to make this performance of Neither definitive.
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