Wednesday, September 03, 2014
George Crumb, Vol. 16 Presents Two Innovative Song Cycles
Voices from the Heartland; Sun and Shadow
Ann Crumb, soprano; Marcantonio Barone, piano; Patrick Mason, baritone; Orchestra 2001; James Freeman, conductor
Bridge Records' sixteenth(!) installment of George Crumb's compositions feature two works that are both similar and different. Similar, in that they're both song cycles. Different, because one is based on traditional tunes, while the other springs from Crumb's imagination. But they're really not that different.
"Sun and Shadow" is another collection of songs based on the poetry of Federico García Lorca. Lorca's work has inspired several Crumb compositions, including the "Ancient Voices of Children." This set, subtitled Spanish Songbook II is classic Crumb. In this case, he uses just an amplified piano to create his unique soundscapes, making this a somewhat intimate composition
"Voices from the Heartland (American Songbook VII)," presents Crumb's arrangements of some traditional American songs. Baritone Patrick Mason and soprano Ann Crumb perform, along with the James Freeman and the Orchestra 2001. Actually, these songs are more re-imaginings than arrangements. While the melodies of such tunes as "Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is coming)" and "On Top of Old Smokey" are easy to pick out, they've been transformed by Crumb's imagination.
Triadic harmonies are replaced with clouds of sound; phrases are broken up and folded back upon themselves; melody and accompaniment veer off in different directions. And yet, rather than obscuring these simple songs, Crumb brings out the deeper emotional themes that, in retrospect, were there all along.
Ann Crumb has extensive experience singing in Broadway shows. While she sings Sun and Shadow in a clear, classical tone, she lets her musical theater roots show in the American Songbook. Which somehow makes these transformed American folk songs sound even more authentic.