Crumb: Complete Edition, Vol. 15

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LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Complete Edition, Vol. 15: The Ghosts of Alhambra; Voices from a Forgotten World
PERFORMER: Jamie Van Eyck (mezzo-soprano), Patrick Mason (baritone), Marcantonio Barone (piano), David Starobin (guitar), Daniel Druckmam, William Kerrigan, Susan Jones, David Nelson, Angela Nelson, James Freeman (percussion); Orchestra 2001
CATALOGUE NO: Bridge 9335

George Crumb marked his 90th birthday with a song cycle based on poems by his longtime muse, Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Crumb’s response to the flamenco inspired poems that make up The Ghosts of Alhambra is fairly straightforward, with few of the extended vocal techniques (sprechgesang, singing into a piano etc) that mark his earlier Lorca settings, such as Ancient Voices of Children. Without any overt references to Spanish music, and even with prominent guitar and castanet parts in the accompaniment, Crumb manages to offer a distinctive brand of cante jondo (deep song), especially in the violent settings of ‘Danza’ and ‘Malagueña’. Patrick Mason is a forceful advocate.
Voices from a Forgotten World is the fifth volume of Crumb’s ongoing American Songbook series. Mostly well-known folk songs (‘Simple Gifts’, ‘I Wonder as I Wander’, for example) are overlaid with Crumb’s trademark ‘night music’ gestures – amplified piano strings plucked and beaten, bowed cymbals and gongs, chanting, whistling, and whispering. All this actually makes for an easy listening experience, and the over-the-top setting of Foster’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, bordering on self-parody, adds welcome levity. Mason and Jamie Van Eyck are committed advocates. Howard Goldstein