GEORGE CRUMB: Complete Crumb Edition, Volume 15 = The Ghost of Alhambra; Voices from a Forgotten World – Patrick Mason, baritone/ David Starobin, guitar/ Daniel Druckman, percussion/ Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo-sop./Orchestra 2001/ James Freeman – Bridge 9335, 67:28 [Distr. By Albany] *****:
George Crumb’s favorite poet—for those who don’t know—is undoubtedly Federico Garcia Lorca. Here he returns to him in this 2009 work The Ghosts of Alhambra, an excision from the longer Poems of the Deep Song, created in November 1921 in a very short period of time. The goal at the time was a presentation of authentic flamenco style in conjunction with the composer Manuel de Falla. The vocal timbres and hauntingly obscure meditations are perfectly suited to Crumb’s textures and hidden dreamlike allusions that so mark his Lorca work. You will be forgiven if the ghosts of Ancient Voices of Children dance around in your aural cavity. But the guitar takes the edge off this work in a way that Children maintains and the effect is somewhat subdued and more intimate than the earlier work. Crumb came late to the guitar, but he has certainly mastered it now.
His forays into the more popular idioms like folk song and Christmas carols strike some listeners as a bit of a betrayal of his earlier art. Yet one cannot but admire the artistry with which he invests so many of the legendary melodies found in his now six-part American Songbook, of which Voices from a Forgotten World is the fifth part. It is a huge legacy for singers everywhere and a crowning achievement for a composer who has lived and breathed this music from his childhood. Here we have both male and female solo voices (together twice), piano, and four percussionists that provide all of the tools needed for Crumb’s vast musical expression, ranging from pathos to great humor.
The Bridge Crumb edition continues apace, and its completion will be one of the major milestones in recorded contemporary American music. If you don’t know this composer you don’t really know American music in its fullness, and dipping into this series is by far the best way to start. Mandatory stuff.
— Steven Ritter
Rafal Blechacz Plays Chopin – DG
“An hour of pure Chopin enchantment…”