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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical > Multi-Channel Music > George Crumb - Makrokosmos I & II (DVD-Video)

George Crumb – Makrokosmos I & II (DVD-Video)


Picture: C+     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Main Program/Music: B-



With the DVD-Video format in upswing, it is nice to see people still trying to push the limits of music on DVD-Video.  Mode Records has taken George Crumb’s 1972-3 classical work Makrokosmos I & II and issued it in a varied version that offers a taped performance accompaniment or stills section, depending on what the viewer wants and sound format they choose.  There are also three sound format versions to choose from intended high fidelity sources, about the best that will fit on a DVD-Video.


The work at hand is based on the signs of the Zodiac and offers “extended piano” possibilities in an age where Classical Music-laced Progressive Rock was at its peak.  With that said, the work (complete here) holds up very well and is a good example of contemporary Classical we can all appreciate.  Evans Chan directed the live footage, which is not bad, though nothing spectacular, and Margaret Leng Tan is the pianist.  Alex Nowitz supplies the whistles.  The tracks are:


Volume I, Part One


1)     Primeval Sounds (Genesis I) Cancer

2)     Proteus/Pisces

3)     Pastorale (from The Kingdom Of Atlantis, ca. 10,000 B.C.) Taurus

4)     Crucifixus [Symbol] Capricorn

Part Two

5)     The Phantom Gondolier/Scorpio

6)     Night-Spell I/Sagittarius

7)     Music Of Shadows (for Aeolian Harp) Libra

8)     The Magic Circle Of Infinity (Moto perpetuo) [Symbol] Leo

Part Three

9)     The Abyss Of Time/Virgo

10)  Spring-Fire/Aries

11)  Dream Images (Love-Death Music) Gemini

12)  Spiral Galaxy [Symbol] Aquarius


Volume II, Part One


13)  Morning Music (Genesis II) Cancer

14)  The Mystic Chord/Sagittarius

15)  Rain-Death Variations/Pisces

16)  Twin Suns (Doppelganger aus der Ewigkeit) [Symbol] Gemini

Part Two

17)  Ghost-Nocturne: For The Druids Stonehenge (Night-Spell II) Virgo

18)  Gargoyles/Taurus

19)  Tora! Tora! Tora! (Cadenza Apocalittica) Scorpio

20)  A Prophecy Of Nostradamus [Symbol] Aries

Part Three

21)  Cosmic Wind/Libra

22)  Voices From “Corona Borealis” Aquarius

23)  Litany Of the Galactic Bells

24)  Agnus Dei [Symbol] Capricorn




The music has its moments, but not as much of it stuck with me as expected after the extensive work had finished playing.  That is despite how very interesting it was as I listened in.  This is likely because it has a more abstract sense than I was used to and would like to hear other versions to see if I am right.  The work runs over an hour, which would put it up there with some of the more extended Classical pieces in general and some of the extended works from the aforementioned Progressive Rock era, reminding us all of how great music can be when true talents go out of their way to make it.  Makrokosmos I & II is more of a success than failure and like all interesting Classical Music, it will surface somewhere soon where we least expect it.


The sound options are more interesting than you usually find on a DVD-Video, with 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS mixes, plus an even better PCM 2.0 96kHz/24Bit Stereo mix that tends to capture the sound in a more natural way than the remixes.  Whether this is from a bad approach to doing the 5.1 or just a limit with the original recoding master is unknown, but The DTS and Dolby are still not bad.  The DTS is better than the Dolby.  I just wondered how DTS 96/24 would have been.  Extras include Don Gillespie interviewing Tan and George Crumb in a 45-minutes long piece, but that is it, though that is enough considering all the space being taken up for the varied version of the main work.  Our previous Mode DVD review was John Cage – From Zero, which also tried to be more than just your typical music DVD.  We look forward to more ambitious DVDs form Mode Records and wish the major labels would become as aggressive.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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