"This six-and-a-half minute work is a musical comment on Morton Feldman's Extensions 3. It is filled with modern, tangy chords. The bass sound is often deliberately enveloped by the piano sonority, tricking the listener (trompe l'oeil?) as to exactly where the sound is coming from."
Companion Piece (1989-91) . . . is the work that strikes me as an unqualified success. Written as an homage to Morton Feldman, it is a trope of sorts on Feldman's 1952 Extensions 3, also for solo piano. Something magical happens here, when the template of Feldman's soft, spacey gestures intersects with Biscardi's lush harmony. The Romantic gestures don't sound forced here, there's nothing kitsch about these beautiful chords, still more functional than Feldman would have ever made them but also less directed than American midcentury neo-Romanticism would normally allow. In short, very much of this time . . .
In what appear to by transitional pieces - Incitation to Desire (1984), Traverso, for flute and piano (1987), and Companion Piece (1991), Biscardi's harmonies, no matter how arcane, show themselves to be never farther than the proverbial hair's breadth for the mainstream diatonicism that has informed so much of music's recent history. His subtle and often telling vacillation between these at once vastly separated and extremely close harmonic realms imbues these pieces with dynamism and expressiveness.
Music-lovers in whom the mere mention of Morton Feldman induces a feeling of drowsiness need not fear Companion Piece. Though inspired by a visit Biscardi paid to Feldman's apartment, and borrowing one or two ideas from the latter's music, Biscardi himself admits, very politely, that "Feldman's sounds are 'drier', more minimal than mine." Companion Piece is a tonal, gently hypnotic, almost meditative work for piano and contrabass - a tranquil duet, although Biscardi also allows for the contrabass part to be omitted.
The 1989 Companion Piece (for Morton Feldman) feels like a transitional work. Biscardi was close to Feldman (something you might not immediately infer from the music), and this work, while it has the sustained quiet of its dedicatee, is more openly expressive. Its harmonies are less juxtapositions of beautiful chords but actual progressions, no matter how laid-back. Mark Helias's playing is also exceptional; listening at first without reading any notes, I just assumed a cello instead of bass, as the sound is so light and "flutey."
Companion Piece (for Morton Feldman) (1989), for bass and piano, written for bassist Robert Black, doesn't sound much like Feldman, though it "comments" on his Extensions 3 of 1952. Basically tonal and touching, like so much of this program, it is a sort of homage to the man he met in his student days and who had a lasting effect, but not an obviously musical one (at least on the basis of these works).