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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

George Crumb, Metamorphoses, Books I & II, Marc Antonio Barone


George Crumb is one of our most important living composers, as a 100% original on the Modern New Music scene in our lifetime. Perhaps he is best known for his multi-volume, sprawling, brilliant solo piano work Makrokosmos. I have over many years found it endlessly fascinating, rewarding, and dramatically moving. It epitomizes Crumb's innovative conception of the solo grand piano as a deep, nearly orchestral sound color generator. The combination of conventional piano sounding with strumming the strings, dampening the struck notes, the use of the sustain pedal for a cavernous resonance, placing objects on the strings, a heightened and unhurried sense of silence and sound, of musical events opening up the listener to a special world both periodic and intermittent. All these elements combined with Crumb's sure sense of dramatic narrative and a non-Western sense of aural space at the same time as it made the Makrokosmos a masterwork of its time that still has the capacity to enthrall and mesmerize.

The good news is that Crumb continues to write for the piano, his most recent and interesting are the two book opus written from 2015-2020, a grand and richly detailed solo work entitled Metamorphosis, Twenty Fantasy Pieces (after Celebrated Paintings) for Amplified Piano. We are fortunate that the entire work has been nicely recorded, as sympathetically performed by pianist Marc Antonio Barone (Bridge 9551).

All of the hallmark technical innovations of the earlier piano works continue to get attention here, along with little vocalisms and atmospheric percussion punctuations both on the piano and articulated on small ancillary percussion instruments as played by the pianist in the course of the work.

Each movement is  a musical analogue of a special, usually well known painting, mostly stemming from the Modern period. So we get one or more movements for various paintings by Whistler, van Gogh, Klee, Chagall, Johns, Gauguin, Dali, Kandinsky,, Andrew Wyeth, Dinnerstein, Picasso, O'Keeffe.

The performances are excellent, the music everything you might expect from Crumb and the piano solo genre he has perfected, only a step further into the future present. Grab it and enjoy. It is a wonderful addition to the Crumb oeuvre. 


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