George Crumb: Voices from the Morning of the Earth

Ann Crumb, Randall Scarlata, Rachel Rudich, Marcantonio Barone and the Orchestra 2001 conducted by James Freeman perform Voices from the Morning of the Earth, An Idyll for the Misbegotten and the The Sleeper.

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LABELS: Bridge
ALBUM TITLE: George Crumb: Voices from the Morning of the Earth
WORKS: Voices from the Morning of the Earth (American Songbook VI); An Idyll for the Misbegotten; The Sleeper
PERFORMER: Ann Crumb (soprano), Randall Scarlata (baritone), Rachel Rudich (flute), Marcantonio Barone (piano); Orchestra 2001/James Freeman

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This latest volume of the Complete Crumb Edition, No. 17, retraces a few years earlier, and more, before the period covered in the previous volume, which was devoted to two recent song collections including American Songbook VII. Songbook VI (2008) featured here offers similar ingredients: apparently straightforward renderings of folk or quasi-folk songs, with predictably off-key accompaniments on prepared piano and a variety of percussion instruments. George Crumb’s over-fondness for vibraphone and augmented fourth harmonies rather unfortunately recalls the 1970s musical style of low-budget Amicus horror films; yet there are also inventive or ear-catching sonorities, such as the unexpected touch of steel drum at the start of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind; and Crumb’s setting of Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? is all the more poignant for its restraint.

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Two makeweight works from the 1980s provide vintage Crumb: An Idyll for the Misbegotten starts like a reimagining of Berlioz’s ‘Scène aux champs’, with solo flute in dialogue with balefully rumbling drums. The Sleeper, a setting of Edgar Allan Poe for soprano (originally Jan DeGaetani) and prepared piano, superbly performed by Ann Crumb and Marcantonio Barone, is rich with eerie sounds and whisperings, conjuring a world that is uniquely Crumb’s. Daniel Jaffé