HSU String Quartet "Fontainebleau": Chorale and Variation
BARRIÈRE Sonata No. 4 in G major
RACHMANINOFF Moments musicaux, Op. 16: 4. Presto
GEORGE CRUMB Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale)
Mimi Stillman, flute
Arlen Hlusko, cello
Amy Yang, piano
Performed on Sunday, September 22, 2013
Gould Rehearsal Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia
As the environmental movement took hold in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and “save the whales” became more than just a bumper sticker, George Crumb’s groundbreaking Vox Balaenae provided a distinct musical voice to this cause while creating a richly vivid landscape (or seascape) of sound and texture.
Crumb puts the contemporary relationship between man and whale on a much broader scale, painting a picture that encapsulates the vast spans of history that predate man’s interaction with the sea and its inhabitants before introducing the inevitable conflict. This chronological musical journey touches upon elements of science, history, religion, and existential philosophy, as well various moral and ethical questions.
The players each wear black half-masks throughout the performance of the work. In Crumb’s own words, “by effacing a sense of human projection, [the masks] will symbolize the powerful, impersonal faces of nature,” while the oft-used blue lighting enhances the figurative immersion into the sea. Although inspired by recordings of humpback whale song, Crumb bypasses the use of tape and instead calls upon the three musicians to produce sounds naturally aided by amplification and extended technique, allowing for a remarkable scope of range in dynamics, color, and emotion.