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George Crumb

Variazioni for Orchestra (1959)
Otherworldly Resonances (2003/05)

The Sleeper (1984)
Early Songs (1947)
Night of the Four Moons (1969)

Jan DeGaetani, mezzo soprano, Gilbert Kalish, piano The Aeolian Chamber Players Odense Symphony Orchestra, Paul Mann, conductor

BRIDGE 92539 (Complete Crumb Edition, Volume 11)

For those who don't yet know well his compositions, this release is a good place to begin exploring the oeuvre of George Crumb (b. 1929) whose music I had, in the past, sometimes thought of as more inclined to the decorative, in his preoccupation with exotic timbres and electronic manipulation of instrumental sound e.g. Makrokosmos III for "amplified pianos in a halo of evocative sounds", than substantive in its essence.

But he is a man of many moods and characters, and it was a pleasure to spend time with George Crumb when we were both lecturing in Bilbao - an unforgettable occasion during which he all but destroyed the ancient library there with the electronics of Black Angels catching fire during night time rehearsal... That work has deservedly become a classic for string quartets, many times recorded. Crumb's lighter side is exemplified by his portrait of the family dogs, which he performed at Wigmore Hall with a portable percussion kit.

The big surprise here is Crumb's orchestral debut, a major set of variations for large orchestra, based on a twelve tone series which is not treated in any doctinaire manner. His command of subtleties of orchestral colour and texture is remarkable and it is given here in a superbly vivid studio recording made in Odense last year.

The other reason that this release is unmissable is the inclusion of delightfully evocative vocal items with the delectable mezzo Jan DeGaetani, one of the most important innovative singers of contemporary music, active in the '70s; her recordings also are all being re-issued by Bridge.

A bonus for those of us with less than perfect vision is the large print annotation in the excellent 32-page booklet; exemplary production.

Recommended enthusiastically.

Peter Grahame Woolf