Ruth Crawford Seeger: Violin Sonata; Piano Pieces; Two Ricercari; Sandburg Songs

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The nine compositions on this 2005 Naxos reissue form a varied and vivid portrait of Ruth Crawford Seeger, whose ruggedly assertive works have gradually entered the standard repertoire, and whose reputation as an important American modernist has grown steadily over the years because of worthy recordings like this one. Through the excellent musicianship of the contemporary music ensemble Continuum and its dedicated directors, Cheryl Seltzer and Joel Sachs, Crawford Seeger's intensely expressive works are presented in a coherent program, starting with the rather expressionistic Suite for five wind instruments and piano (1927, revised 1929), and the Sonata for violin and piano (1925-1926); traversing several minor but developmental chamber pieces, such as the two Diaphonic Suites (both 1930); and concluding with the brilliantly original Three Songs for soprano and chamber orchestra (1930, 1932) on poems by Carl Sandburg. Her style reflects influences of the early twentieth century avant-garde, from the mystical atonality of Scriabin to the disciplined organization of Schoenberg and perhaps even the crystallizations of Varèse; yet there is no mistaking her own voice and sensibility, fully apparent in her dramatic gestures, energetic counterpoint, and brusque dissonances. Recorded in 1991 and 1992 and first released by the Musical Heritage Society, this is a valuable collection of Crawford Seeger's work and essential listening for students of American music.

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