Crumb’s Metamorphoses (Book 1): True to Form

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Crumb subtitles his Metamorphoses (Book 1) “Ten Fantasy-Pieces (after celebrated paintings),” and if that sounds like fun, it is. The paintings are by Klee, van Gogh, Chagall, Whistler, Jasper Johns, Gaugin, Dali and Kandinsky. It’s a great lineup, and in realizing this updated “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Crumb returns to his own personal medium: amplified piano–aided and abetted by a few additional contraptions. All kinds of “stuff” makes these evocative sounds, from the pianist’s fingers on the strings, to sticks and mallets of various types, to assorted percussion, and even (in reimagining Chagall’s “Clowns at Night”) an additional toy piano.

Typically for Crumb, much of the expressive ambience is spooky (Whistler’s “Nocturne: Blue and Gold”) or dreamlike (Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” aka “The Dripping Clocks”). Musical materials incorporate everything from a touch of jazz, to tone clusters, to glissandos on the strings, to bits of Jewish folk music (Chagall’s “The Fiddler”). Crumb’s textures are haunting, consistently captivating, and you’d never believe that all these sounds come from the two hands and ten fingers of a single person. That person, in this case, is Marcantonio Barone, a masterful exponent of Crumb’s unique sonic canvases who could not possibly be more impressively involved in realizing the composer’s vision.

The booklet photo features a picture of Crumb listening to the recording sessions, and we can only assume that he was very pleased with the result. At least, he should have been, not just with the superb playing, but also with Bridge’s first-class engineering. A lovely disc from a true modern master.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

    Metamorphoses (Book 1): Ten Fantasy-Pieces (after celebrated paintings)
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