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Imagine a standard Romantic concerto. A soloist and an orchestra unfurl melody after melody, first pitched against one another, then working in lockstep, all of it leading from a stormy beginning to a jubilant conclusion. It’s a familiar paradigm, so it’s easy to call it to mind. Got it?
You now have in your mind the complete inverse of Morton Feldman’s Violin and Orchestra (1979). Only the names of a soloist and an ensemble remain from the concerto paradigm. At around an hour, it’s actually one of Feldman’s shorter late works, some of which can last between four and six hours. But with those pieces it shares an almost complete absence of conventional musical material; there are instead repeated patterns and irregular rhythms.