The New York chamber orchestra The Knights is known for its imaginative programs that are about juxtaposing new and old works. On the group's latest release, it uses as a starting point a comment the composer Morton Feldman made to a group of German students in 1986, that part of the magic of Schubert is "that kind of hovering, as if you're in a register you've never heard."
Accordingly, The Knights – which happens to be WQXR’s ensemble in residence – takes Feldman's reaction as a pretext to explore works from Schubert onward that reflect a certain hovering, reflective quality. At its center are Schubert's Third and Eighth Symphonies, works that don’t entirely "hover" but in the Knights’ hands often have a glowing, numinous quality. Even closer to the theme are lithe arrangements of two Schubert songs – “Gretchen am Spinnrade” and “Des Baches Wiegenlied.”
Moving ahead to the turn of the 20th century are two Debussy arrangements of Satie's Gymnopédies, works that were undeniable precursors to musical Minimalism. We also hear Philip Glass's Company, a brief Samuel Beckett-inspired string piece, and Feldman's undeniably charming Madame Press Died Last Week at 90.
Perfectly capturing the album's theme is the haunting cover picture of an abandoned rural church seeming to sink amid a thicket of trees.
A Second of Silence
Available at Arkivmusic.com