George Crumb Profiled


It’s a big week for music about paintings. In Philadelphia, Dirk Brossé and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia have been readying Brosse’s Pictures at an Exhibition for this weekend’s premiere. And at Washington’s National Gallery of Art last Sunday, veteran Philadelphia composer George Crumb listened from the audience to the premiere of his Metamorphoses Book I, a cycle of piano works based on his favorite paintings.

Crumb’s work crossed new boundaries. Performed for the Washington audience by keyboardist Margaret Leng Tan, Metamorphoses showed that the 87-year-old composer — long retired from the University of Pennsylvania and now living quietly in Media — still has the power to drive some listeners to premature exits. But mostly, his work had audience members too entranced to leave the East Building Auditorium when it was over. Even after extended clapping, they lingered.