George Crumb – Music for a Summer Evening (Makrokosmos III)
1975 – Nonesuch Records
This album was written for two pianists and two percussionists, which sounds like a perfect ensemble for me. The first piece, Nocturnal Sounds (the Awakening), starts very sparse, with only piano and slowly ramps up the pace. Percussion is added in eventually and the dynamics grow louder. This all leads to a crash in the low end of the piano and then everything starts to break apart. It suddenly turns creepy, which I love. Movement II (Wanderer-Fantasy) keeps with that mood, using slide whistles and tons of space. When Movement III (The Advent) comes in, the piece starts to pick back up. Low piano and orchestra chimes combine in a beautiful way and a thunder-sheet keeps you on the edge of your seat. Usually chimes make me think of either religious music or royalty, but in this case it’s downright devilish. Side two starts with a percussion piece, Myth. The Summer Evening that this music would be perfect for would be sitting in a field, looking at the stars, with no one around, and then you think that you hear someone (or something) creeping around. I mean this 100% as a compliment. The mood is set so well and the interactions between the instruments are perfect. Movement V (Music of the Starry Night) wraps it all up, giving some kind of closure to the night. There is a really nice piano part that, played on its own, would make you think that the sun is coming up and it’s a happy day. The parts played around this, though, distort and change its’ meaning to something dark and sinister. All around, this is a really fun piece. Check it out if you get the chance, I also have Makrokosmos I on vinyl too, so maybe I’ll review that at some point too.