Crumb @ 90

Tomorrow George Crumb turns 90 years old. (I’ve heard him joke that he was born the day the stock market started to go down in the crash of 1929.) I’ve been involved with a number of performances of his music in celebration of this birthday. Earlier this month I played the Little Suite for Christmas, A. D. 1979 and accompanied Meg Bragle in the Three Early Songs as part of a three-concert survey of George’s music held at Penn in collaboration with Bowerbird, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Penn Music Department. And this past Sunday I joined Xak Bjerken to play George’s four-hand piano piece Celestial Mechanics at Cornell University. I’ll be playing again with Xak when we reprise our performance at National Sawdust next week. This will be part of an evening of George’s music curated by Chris Grymes – details above.

Xak played solo pieces on the first half of the concert at Cornell, including a cleverly devised group of short pieces pairing works by three composers with pieces written by three other composers in homage to the first three. The six pieces:

Elegy, in memory of Steven Stucky – Joseph Phibbs
Chorale – Steven Stucky
Étude No. 10: For opposing sonorities – Debussy
Improvisation, Op. 20, No. VII: in memory of Claude Debussy
Minuet from Sonata in G, Hob. XVI:5 – Haydn
Minuet on the name HAYDN – Ravel

Broadly speaking, all six pieces were French in flavor, something of a stretch for Haydn of course, though its ornamentation and clarity helped it fit in.

George will be there in NYC next week, so it’s a chance to both see and hear him.

There will be more concerts of George’s music coming up in the Philadelphia area. Swarthmore College will present a program on the evening of November 2, while November 10 there will be a program at Haverford College. In both programs important advocates for Crumb’s music will perform, including Marcantonio Barone, James Freeman, and Gilbert Kalish. I’ll be part of a panel discussing George and his work at the Haverford program.

Xak Bjerken at Penn

xakbjerken-al-cropped-200x154Pianist Xak Bjerken offers recent music by Hartke, Stucky, Salonen, Jones, as well as classics by Debussy and Scriabin in a recital at Penn this coming Wednesday, October 19. The free 8 pm program is in Rose Recital Hall, located on the 4th floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall, at the corner of 34th and Walnut in Philadelphia.

I saw Xak play the Stucky Sonata at a memorial for Steve last season, and it was an intensely moving performance. Here’s the complete lineup:

Images, Book II – Claude Debussy
Post-Modern Homages, Set II – Stephen Hartke
Sonata for Piano – Steven Stucky
Iscrizione per un amico – Esa-Pekka Salonen
The Flames of the Sun Make the Desert Flower Hysterical – Stephen Hartke
Ephemera – Jesse Jones
Sonata No. 9, op. 68 “Black Mass” – Alexander Scriabin