Lebrecht Weekly - Feldman, Crumb: Piano pieces (Hyperion)
Anyway, this week, I’ve struck lucky with some top-grade industrial ear cleanser from a British pianist I’d normally associate with Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Messiaen. Steven Osborne, though, has a quirky turn of mind and a wonderful turn of phrase. The idea of interleaving Morton Feldman and George Crumb on a solo piano album is so counter-intuitive it would not occur to any other pianist in a month of car-wash Sundays.
Feldman (1926-87) is the ultimate urban ascetic, assembling music from bathroom fittings he took from a Greenwich Village bed-sit and half a croissant left over from yesterday’s breakfast. Crumb (born 1929) is a fusion composer of animal sounds and extreme electronica. Amazingly, the pair work together like Johnson & Johnson ear-buds.
You cannot imagine, until you hear it, what Crumb is going to do next in his Little Suite for Christmas, a fricassee of festive scraps and piano-string strummings, the sort of thing that might occur in a jam session involving John Cage, Pope John Paul II and a box full of legal highs. This is the generic opposite of a Christmas album, one you’d never give to a spinster aunt.
As for Feldman, he never lets you down. Just when you’ve classified him as an annoying epigrammatist, too clever for his own good, he delivers a contemplation of magic carpets under the title ‘Palais de Mari’ and grips your attention for a full half-hour. It’s his final piano work before pancreatic cancer took his life and every note of it is a world entire. What are you waiting for? This has to be heard.