CD review: Rothko Chapel

First published in the Guardian on 19 November, 2015

Mark Rothko created canvasses so big you could wallow in them: “you paint the larger picture, you are in it,” he reasoned. His mission statement applied to Morton Feldman, too, whose long durational scores — and Feldman scores are almost always long — equal those big pictures in sound. This album features the 1971 choral work composed in tribute after Rothko died, commissioned by the same Texas church for which the artist had been creating a series of murals. It’s a passionate, reverent piece with elegiac playing here from violist Kim Kashkashian — she paints bolder strokes than many dare in Feldman and it’s refreshing — plus warm singing from the Huston choir and a great sense of space and ritual from percussionist Steven Schick. The rest of the album explores a web of mutual composer influences: John Cage’s Four2, Five, ear for EAR and In a Landscape and Eric Satie’s Ogives and Gnossiennes, marvellously strange and weightless in the hands of pianist Sarah Rothenberg.