COMPOSERS: Crawford Seeger
WORKS: Chamber works
PERFORMER: Ensemble Aventure, Pellegrini Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 999 670-2
At last it seems Ruth Crawford Seeger is receiving the attention her small but momentous output deserves. For a few years around the turn of the Thirties she was writing music as radical as any by an American of her generation. After 1935 she turned away from composition to join her husband Charles Seeger in his assiduous collection and documentation of folk music (though her meeting with Seeger had given shape and purpose to her modernist instincts in the first place) and only took it up again just before her death in 1953.
Crawford’s masterpiece was her 1931 String Quartet, in which all her concerns – the concept of dissonant counterpoint, and her concern to organise rhythm just as rigorously as pitch – are masterfully employed, and rightly forms the centrepiece of this disc. The other works here, most of them thankfully not duplicated on the equally valuable collection available on DG, put more pieces into the jigsaw of her development. The 1927 Suite for piano and winds shows her radical instincts in raw, unfocused form; in the four Diaphonic Suites, all from 1930, Crawford progressively strips away all the traditional conventions of melody and counterpoint, while in the Suite for Wind Quintet, composed at the end of her life, she recycles material from her earlier scores. It’s all fascinating. Andrew Clements