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Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories at IMMA

The celebrated Irish pianist Hugh Tinney will make a welcome return to the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Saturday 17 April 2010, when he will give the first Irish performance of Morton Feldman’s complex, meditative work Triadic Memories. The concert is being staged as part of a special programme of events surrounding IMMA’s major new exhibition, Vertical Thoughts: Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts, which focuses on the many connections between Feldman’s life and work and that of the many legendary visual artists with whom he was associated, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston.

Noted for its mesmerising quietude, Triadic Memories was described by the composer as “probably the largest butterfly in captivity". The 90-minute piece was first performed in 1981 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London by the Australian pianist Roger Woodward, to whom it was jointly dedicated with the Japanese pianist Aki Takahashi. Reviewing the performance in The Daily Telegraph, Robert Henderson wrote: “…the music mainly unfolding through hushed, obsessive, minutely calculated repetitions of brief chordal segments or simple decorative figures….each tiny segment taken in isolation possesses its own peculiar beauty, their cumulative effect as they dissolve slowly into one another, one of a near trance-like stillness and immobility”.

Writing in the online magazine Stylus in 2003, American composer/musician Joe Panzner describes the tragic and resolute beauty of the work: “Its endurance and vulnerability evokes a very human sympathy for the fragile and ephemeral while retaining an aura of coldness and obstinacy. It is poetry without subject and a journey without a destination, existing quietly and beautifully without reason or purpose. Like the fluctuations in our daily lives, the sounds exist in quiet variations as similar and as varied as the moments in which they exist between the obscured past and uncertain future.”

The exhibition Vertical Thoughts, is built around Feldman’s twin passions for music and the visual arts. In his text in the exhibition catalogue, composer Kevin Volans describes him as having “only one subject of conversation: music/art”, and Feldman himself stated that he learned more from painters than he learned from composers. These driving forces came together in his involvement with the New York School of artists, poets and musicians, which was active in the 1950s and ‘60s and was linked, especially, with the emergence of Abstract Expressionism and so-called Action Art. In 1967 Feldman curated an exhibition entitled Six Painters in Houston, Texas, which presented the work of Guston, Franz Kline, de Kooning, Piet Mondrian, Pollock and Rothko.

The IMMA exhibition takes Six Painters as its starting point and builds on this by showing other examples of the six artists’ paintings, which display similar qualities, and works by other artists who were equally influential in Feldman’s work, including Francesco Clemente, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and many others. It features artworks from Feldman’s former collection, as well as from several of the world’s leading galleries, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery, Washington, and Tate, London. It also presents music scores, record covers, photographs and documents. A number of Oriental rugs, formally owned by Feldman, which function in a similarly inspirational way to the Abstract Expressionist paintings, are also being shown.

Born in New York City in 1926, Morton Feldman was a child prodigy who began composing at the age of nine. In the 1940s he fell under the influence of the early avant-garde composers, going on to become a pioneer of indeterminate music, a development associated with the experimental New York School of composers, which also included John Cage and Christian Wolff. From the 1950s Feldman began to write pieces which bore no relationship to traditional compositional systems and which experimented with musical notation. Feldman found inspiration for these works in the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists and wrote a number of pieces in honour of artists who had become his close friends, including For Philip Guston, 1984, one of his most ambitious works lasting four and a half hours, and Rothko Chapel, 1971, commissioned on the death of Mark Rothko and performed in a chapel which housed his paintings. Rothko Chapel will be heard in the final concert in the IMMA series, being given by the Crash Ensemble on Sunday 30 May 2010.

Since winning first prize at both the Pozzoli and Paloma O’Shea competitions in the 1980s, Hugh Tinney has performed in concert halls and festivals in more than 30 countries in Europe, the USA, South America and the Far East. A prize at the Leeds Piano Competition in 1987 marked the start of a busy career in the UK, performing with such leading orchestras as the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic and the London Mozart Players. Highlights in Ireland include the widely-acclaimed Chopin and Schubert series at IMMA and the equally-successful complete Mozart and Beethoven piano concertos at the National Concert Hall. He has also appeared regularly at the West Cork Music Festival, with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra. Chamber music partners have included violinist Catherine Leonard, cellist Steven Isserlis and the Borodin, Tokyo, RTE Vanbrugh and Vogler Quartets. He has recorded with the Decca, Meridian, Naxos, Marco Polo, Black Box and RTE Lyric FM labels. From 2000 to 2006 Hugh Tinney was Artistic Director of the Music in Great Irish Houses Festival. He teaches at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and has served on the jury for several international competitions. In 2006 he was awarded a two-year Arts Council bursary to research, perform and record contemporary music.

The performance takes place at 7.00pm on Saturday 17 April. Admission is free, but booking is essential on [email protected]

For further information and images please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900; Email: [email protected]

7 April 2010