Crumb: Bad Dog! Portrait of George Lamb

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Bad Dog! Portrait of George Crumb
PERFORMER: Tony Arnold (soprano), George Crumb (percussion), Robert Shannon (piano), David Starobin (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: 9312 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)


Bridge Records’ ongoing George Crumb Edition on CD is now joined by this DVD portrait Bad Dog (a reference, of course, to Crumb’s Mundus Canis cycle!). Actually it is a series of studio performances, ostensibly the same ones on CD, with brief introductions from the composer interspersed with archival photographs, but very little in the way of biographical detail or musical analysis.

Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable hour’s worth of Crumb, with the visual element providing an extra, possibly required, dimension of understanding and enjoyment, especially when the composer himself launches body as well as soul with full enthusiasm into his occasional percussion contributions.

Pianist Robert Shannon is a constant presence throughout most of this DVD and his manipulation of the various techniques of the prepared piano with flair and astounding accuracy is a joy to watch. By himself he offers Eine kleine Mitternachtsmusik, one of the programme’s most cohesive bits of echt-Crumb eclecticism, in which Thelonious Monk’s tune Round Midnight is embedded in sustained, bell-like chords, along with allusions to Debussy’s ‘Golliwog’s Cakewalk’ and Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel.


This being Crumb, numerology also makes its presence felt when the pianist counts to 12 in Italian. In Apparitions, a cycle drawn from Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, soprano Tony Arnold’s abstract, yet expressive facial gestures in the vocalises that frame various sections of the poem add another layer of narrative that deepens our delight in her spot-on pitch, clear diction, and fluidity of line. A fine supplement to a worthy project that may whet your appetite for some of the 13 volumes already recorded. Howard Goldstein