Feldman: Palais de Mari; Crumb: A Little Suite for Christmas

Feldman: Palais de Mari; Crumb: A Little Suite for Christmas

Steven Osborne (piano)


The extraordinary soundscapes conjured by Morton Feldman and George Crumb are like nothing else in the whole of twentieth-century music. Steven Osborne is the most sympathetic of guides to these rarefied worlds.

Behind The Cover

If, after several days of indulgence, you're craving a musical palate cleanser, then Hyperion has just the thing. Christmas music doesn’t come much less hackneyed—or much more sheerly beautiful—than 'A Little Suite for Christmas AD 1979' by the late, great American avant-garde composer George Crumb (1929-2022).

Inspired by Giotto's early fourteenth-century frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Crumb, as always, brings a wholly unique sonic perspective to the familiar elements of the story. As often in Crumb’s music, the performer must employ so-called 'extended techniques'—unorthodox ways of producing sounds from their instrument—which, in the case of the 'Little Suite', requires the pianist to play inside the piano, playing harmonics and plucking or strumming the strings. The effect is timeless, at once ancient and modern, as when a fragment of the sixteenth-century 'Coventry Carol' is heard in 'Canticle of the Holy Night', drifting across the intervening centuries. Mention should also be made of Crumb's manuscripts, many of which are calligraphic masterpieces in their own right. The sketches of the 'Little Suite', freely decorated in multi-coloured inks, are no exception—a sample page is reproduced in the album booklet.

Coupled with works by another American maverick, Morton Feldman, this is challenging repertoire which few pianists perform, let alone record. The album's success not only demonstrates the extraordinary eclecticism of Steven Osborne's artistry, but, 2023 marking the quarter century of his first recording for Hyperion, is a fine representative of just what makes our ongoing relationship so special.

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