Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bridge's decision to embark on a complete edition of George Crumb's music remains one of the most significant recording projects currently in progress, as well as one of the most artistically successful. These two magnificent works--Zeitgeist (for two amplified pianos), and Music for a Summer Evening (for two amplified pianos and percussion)--not only logically fit together on a disc, they also offer an ideal general introduction to Crumb's music, particularly for listeners not interested in his many pieces that employ texts.
One of the most satisfying things about Crumb is the way in which his music "fits" whatever forces he chooses. Most of his work uses smaller
ensembles because his language requires a precision and subtlety unobtainable outside the context of chamber music. Indeed, the magical atmosphere he conjures in these two works (in particular) arises largely from the amazing variety of sounds he obtains from what would seem to be the restricted medium of two pianos (albeit amplified, and with percussion in MFSE).
As the composer himself describes it in the excellent booklet notes, the subject of Zeitgeist (and by inference Crumb's music overall) concerns "the quest for a new kind of musical primitivism: (a 'morning of the world' vision of the elemental forms and forces of nature once again finding resonance in our music); an obsession with more minimalistic (or at least, more simple and direct) modes of expression; the desire to reconcile and synthesize the rich heritage of our classical Western music with the wonderfully vibrant ethnic and classical music of the non-Western world; and, finally, our intense involvement with acoustical phenomena and the bewitching appeal of timbre as a potentially structural element."
Like Mahler, Crumb's music is profoundly inclusive--each work inhabits its own unique "world" incorporating both tonal and atonal elements, borrowed melodies, and rhythmic and structural ideas ranging from the most simple to the most complex. That all of it comes out sounding perfectly natural and inevitable is a testament to Crumb's genius as a "synthetic" composer, and to the fact that much of the time his music simply beguiles the ear with its wholly seductive repertoire of fascinating sounds. For Crumb, the piano represents a near-infinite variety of possibilities realized through normal modes of playing, altering the strings in various ways, attacking the instrument from the inside, and even (in "The Advent"--the third movement of Music for a Summer Evening) requiring the performers to hum wordlessly.
Although all of this music has been recorded before, it would be difficult to imagine finer performances than those here. Susan Grace and Alice Rybak of Quattro Mani capture the range and variety of this music, from the rapid-fire exchanges in Zeitgeist's "Day of the Comet" to the near immobility of the same work's "The Realm of Morphius", with seemingly effortless virtuosity. They clearly have moved beyond the many complex performance issues in order to get straight to each movement's emotional core, capturing the mystery of MFSE's "Wanderer-Fantasy" and projecting the joy of its finale, "Music of the Starry Night", with a brilliance approaching ecstasy (and let's not forget the two fantastic percussionists in this latter work).
Bridge's recording captures every nuance with complete naturalness, from the buzz of paper on the piano strings to the loudest tam-tam crash, against a background of perfect silence--a quality particularly necessary to sustaining the mood of this often-haunting music. Don't miss this latest release from a composer who, more than almost anyone else alive today, has reconciled the purely musical demands of modern technique and originality of style with the need to communicate directly and powerfully.
[Editor's Note: At our request, Bridge has agreed to put all of their Crumb Edition on sale for our readers for the month of June. We have no financial interest in this; it's something we wanted to do for you. So please consider supporting this major effort by a fine independent label. You can find the sale at: http://www.bridgerecords.com/metapage.html, or click on the Bridge Banner on the home page rotator, or in the Advertiser's Index link just below. This is an experiment for us. If it works, we will try to persuade other labels as well to offer discounts on direct sales of highest rated recordings.]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Music for a Summer Evening "Makrokosmos Vol 3" by George Crumb
David Colson (Percussion),
John Kinzie (Percussion),
Susan Grace (Piano),
Alice Rybak (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1974; USA
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