29 March 2018 – Piers Hellawell – George Crumb

Long time no addition to discophage.com. Among the reasons is that I’m spending a lot of time these days playing the piano (very badly alas!) – so, no time to listen. Another reason is that I spend too much time buying CDs and sorting out what I buy and receive, and it leaves little time for actual listening and reviewing – a self-defeating proposition, really! I’ve listened to a few nice things these last few days – Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of arias of Steffani, magnificent, Anton Eberl’s Piano Concerto on Koch, something like a missing link between Beethoven’s first two piano concertos and his mature 3rd to 5th – but I need to take time to write down the damn reviews.

So I’m posting this just to say that I missed a bid today on eBay – music of Piers Hellawell. I had no idea who that was and what the music sounded like, so I went to Amazon to listen to samples, and from there to You Tube (there’s a fine selection of his works). It’s great, very original and evocative, both demanding (no neo-reactionary romantic pandering to the lowest common denominator here) AND very accessible, at times extremely lyrical. I immediately bought two CDs on Amazon. Excellent string quartet here (link will open new tab on YouTube), with some reminiscence of the dance music of Kevin Volans, and this one too.  His Piano Quartet, and an orchestral piece. Born in 1956, Hellawell is Professor of Composition at the Queen’s University of Belfast, but he doesn’t get an entry on Wikipedia, and I don’t even know if he’s of Irish origin.

Other news and addition to my collection: I’ve recently made a HUGE purchase of second-hand scores online – 172! I hadn’t visited my online dealer’s catalog for over a year – I’ve had other things on my mind since the election of Trump and the ongoing destruction of everything that ever made America great. Well, I received notification of his new catalog and decided to pay a visit. I coulnd’t resist, it was like an Ali-Baba cavern – especially since, for some reason, this English dealer was selling lots of scores of George Crumb. How did he get hold of them, I don’t know (I’d be curious to know, though…) but I took advantage. I’ve added many of Crumb’s song cycles to my collection – the hauntingly beautiful Apparition, the seven volumes of his American Songbook, vol. I of Spanish Songbook, Mundus Canis for guitar & percussion, Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) for Violin & Piano, Dream Sequence (Images II) for violin, cello, piano, percussion, glass harmonica, Eleven Echoes of Autumn for violin, alto flute, clarinet & piano, Quest for guitar, soprano saxophone, harp, contrabass & percussion, Lux Aeterna for Five masked musicians, Eleven Echoes of Autumn for violin, alto flute, clarinet & piano and A Haunted Landscape for orchestra. And it’s not just the music: Crumb’s scores are works of art, they are calligraphy, they deserve to be framed and hung to the wall.

the CD – not, it’s not a stamp! – is to give a comparative notion of the score’s humongous size


Crumb is one of my top favorite 20/21st century composers (others would be Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Xenakis, Dutilleux, Ohana…), music of such invention and evocative power as to be breathtaking. I’m still missing a few scores of Crumb that I’d love to have, of his extraordinary Black Angels for electrified string quartet, Ancient Voices of Children, his Makrokosmos cycle for piano(s) and percussion…

Among my big lot of new scores: Szymanowski’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 op 21 and 3 op. 36, Métopes op. 29, Masques op. 34, Dutilleux’ String Quartet (“Ainsi la Nuit”) and The Shadows of Time, Messiaen’s Et Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum, Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartets Nos. 2 & 3, First Piano Concerto and Harp Concerto, Silvestre Revueltas’ String Quartets 1-3, Egon Wellesz’ Quartets 1-4, Orff’s Antigonae, Ligeti’s Double Concerto and Violin Concerto, lots of Maxwell Davies (I already had a lot) and I almost completed my Panufnik collection too (I think I’m missing only his 9th Symphony now…). And with the addition of Stravinsky’s  Danses concertantes, Four Norwegian Moods and The Flood, I’m now pretty close to having just about everything I wish to have of Stravinsky (which is nearly everything of Stravinsky). For Bartòk I’m not far by am still missing The Wooden Prince.

I intend to publish here the complete list of my scores. It’s big and I love it.

Comments are welcome