George Crumb, disco esaltante per i suoi 90 anni. Registrazione esaltante con il soprano Maria Elena Romanazzi e la pianista Raffaella Ronchi, di due raccolte vocali, “Three Early Songs” (1947),  “Apparition” su testi di Walt Whitman (1979) e di una per tastiera “Macrokosmos II”, sui segni zodiacali (1973).”

Gregorio Moppi, La Repubblica


The Idea

George Crumb, with his visionary and imaginative, mystical and contemplative music, has always fascinated us.  CRUMB PORTRAIT recording project started as a collaboration, a singer and a pianist, two music performers. In July 2018 we recorded for  Ema Records a monographic CD by the American composer, which contains three of his most important works: Makrokosmos II, Apparition e Three Early Songs.

The study, together with his writings, and the discovery of the infinite shadings of timbre contained in it led us to think that this music is a very rich source of suggestions. Geroge Crumb’s music is wonderfully transcribed and spatialised on paper, it is a work of visual art. Thanks to the friendship with the action painter Cinzia Fiaschi his project is enriched by the encounter of his music with pictorial art. Cinzia agrees to paint a canvas inspired by the Appartition cycle and it is from her pictorial inspiration that the cover of the CD comes.

Simultaneously, in summer we got to know the Ottopiuotto Creative Studio, an agency specialised in graphics and videomaking. They liked our project and produced an animated video clip, highlighting once more the visionary potential that Crumb’s music generates.

The graphic design has been carefully designed by Nino Cannatà and Progetti Digitali multimedia

During the 2020 look down Raffaella Ronchi shares her thoughts on Makrokosmos II with  Rossella Calella and Francesco AbbresciaCrumb in Makrokosmos II explores all the sonic possibilities of the piano, amplifying it, preparing it in the tailpiece, in parallel requiring the performer to sing, whistle, shout during the performance. Although written in 1973, this work has not lost its innovative flair and is ductile enough to be combined with other artistic languages. From this consideration takes shape the idea of fusing the eclecticism of Makrokosmos II with electronic compositional art and video art. Thus was born a new 50-minute multidisciplinary video work in which the 12 pieces of the cycle are interspersed with electronic music works in all wrapped in a refined real-time video frame. video

CRUMB PORTRAIT is a dialogue with the music of George Crumb, begun in the loneliness of the studio and gradually involving a growing number of artists. A dialogue in absence of gravitational force. It remains an open project, indeed we do not know what else it will reserve us. However, we hope that our work can contribute to the spread of music and poetry of this great master of our time.



Born in Charleston, Virginia, in 1929, George Crumb is one of the most appreciated and replayed American composers on the contemporary scene and one of the most long-lived, too. Since the late eighties, after having taught for thirty years at the University of Pennsylvania, he has been protagonist of a new artistic youth. His latest composition is dated 2012 and named The yellow moon of Andalusia. This piece is suitable to mezzo-soprano and piano amplified and it also constitutes the third volume of the Spanish Songbook cycle. This work joins a more monumental one started in 2001 that takes the name of American Songbook, for one or two voices, amplified piano and percussion quartet, which reached its seventh volume.

In solitary or mutual formation, the voice and the amplified piano frequently recur in Crumb’s production. His article “Music: does it have a future” – published in 1980 (Keyon Review, Volume 2, No. 3, pp. 115-122) – helps to understand the reasons why this happens. Far from the European avant-garde aesthetics and from John Cage’s one, Crumb chooses the nonconformism path, on which he ventures as, some decades ago, some of his predecessors did: the composer especially mentions Chopin (for the piano), Bartok (for the rhythm) and Debussy (for the opening to the suggestions of the East). At the end of the twentieth century Crumb explains that the available survey tools open the composer’s horizons on boundless scenarios, they lead to a broad view of history from a spatio-temporal point of view and to an awareness of music as a phenomenon on a world scale. In this way he anticipates a concept that many artists after him will own, too. Questioned about the music of the future, the composer invites the young generation to engage into two fields: first, the vocal idiom, a field of inexhaustible experimentation (due to the fruitfulness of references to literature and to the popular repertoire up to which Crumb looks carefully); secondly, the piano, investigated from its inward, also through the use of electronics. Skeptical towards the idea that electronics can decree the end of traditional instruments, Crumb is also convinced that technology opens to original timbral solutions, if applied to the same instruments: the research for effects and colours is never an end in itself and this makes the two vocal collections of this record, as well as the piano fantasy, of direct fruition since their first listening.

Fiorella Sassanelli