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Ancient Voices of Children (1970)
Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (2001)
Madrigals Books I-IV (1965/69)

Tony Arnold (soprano); Justin Murray (boy soprano); Emanuele Arciuli (piano);
others - David Colson (conductor - Ancient Voices)

Bridge Records - CD 9170 (COMPLETE CRUMB EDITION, VOL. 9)

It was my memories of hearing Jan DeGaetani's haunting performance of Ancient Voices (later recorded on Nonesuch) that prompted me to explore this newer recording of 2005. I have fond memories too of Black Angels, last encountered most recently in unusual circumstances at Bilbao, where Crumb and I were both lecturing...*

George Crumb is given an unusually generous recorded discography by Bridge Records. This is Vol. 9; Volume 14 of the series is in preparation and I am advised that a DVD produced by David Starobin is planned for the BBC Total Immersion George Crumb Day at The Barbican in December; that might prove the best way to enjoy this unique oeuvre.

I have difficulties with Crumb's music, exquisitely beautiful in its exotic surfaces (including the scores) but all too often the formidably intellectual underpinning can pass one by. And I have serious doubts how a whole day of it will go in the concert hall? The refinement of the pieces here seem ideal for home listening, and the recordings are ideal for catching all the nuances of this music, a lot of it evocative settings of Lorca.

Tony Arnold is ideal as the chief solo singer, and Ancient Voices came up well to my hopes. I am less sure about the four books of Madrigals with four instrumentalists to fragments of Lorca texts that seem to slip through your fingers, figuratively speaking.

The presentation is lavish, with some 14 pages of detailed analytic notes by Steven Bruns, which leave you in no doubt about the rigorous technical basis for music which can too easily lead to passive listening, which the composer must surely disapprove.

We have often had occasion to enjoy and review Crumb's varied output; see my opinion of Vol 13, in which I quote another of our reviewers' reaction to Crumb's Makrokosmos Book 1 heard live in the PLGYA Series of recitals.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*- - his classic string quartet Black Angels demanded meticulous setting up (which came close to a conflagration when the fuses of the venerable Bilbao library blew during a nocturnal rehearsal!) All this music depended equally upon new and subtle sound combinations as on musical argument. For an experiment, Black Angels was played on electric string instruments (the cellist put his head right though his at one point when he had to simulate a viol) and I doubt if such sounds had been heard in the hallowed surroundings of the Bilbao Library's concert hall before. Their strident tone did not please everyone and the members of the OENM String Quartet certainly had reservations about using them - -