Crumb: Quest; Federico’s Little Songs for Children; Night Music I

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LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Quest; Federico’s Little Songs for Children; Night Music I
PERFORMER: David Starobin (guitar), Susan Narucki (soprano) Speculum Musicae/William Purvis
A feathery stroke on a cymbal – then a faint rustling of fourths on the harp, like a guitar’s open strings – then a stuttering phrase from an African talking drum. That’s how movement two (‘Dark Paths’) from Quest begins, and it is typical of the way Crumb’s music seems to be scratched, in tiny, delicate marks, on the surface of an underlying silence. It’s a measure of Crumb’s cunning sense of pace and timing that these haunting, moody sounds, suggestive of vast empty spaces, don’t quickly pall. Wit is present too: the guitar is imitated, first by harp, then by percussion, so that when the guitar eventually appears, you’re not sure if it’s the real thing. Much, though, depends on the performance, which needs a certain robustness to prevent those evanescent colours from sounding fey. On this disc Crumb is brilliantly served by the New York music group Speculum Musicae. Especially fine are the agile and alert guitar-playing of David Starobin and the poised, cool sound of soprano Susan Narucki. Ivan Hewett