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July 11: School of Music Wins Prestigious French Award


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon's School of Music Wins Prestigious
French Award for Recording Music by George Crumb

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's School of Music won the French Diapason d'or Award for its recording of George Crumb's masterpieces "Black Angels" and "Makrokosmos III."

The recording was conducted by Juan Pablo Izquierdo, music director of the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic and director of orchestral studies at Carnegie Mellon. Students from the percussion studio at Carnegie Mellon performed with faculty members Luz Manriquez and Walter Morales in "Makrokosmos III." The Grammy-nominated Cuarteto Latinoamericano, artists-in-residence at Carnegie Mellon, performed "Black Angels" with faculty member Douglas Ahlstedt and students from the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic.

Carnegie Mellon's recording of "Black Angels" is a unique contribution to the Crumb discography. With the blessing of the composer, Izquierdo created a string-orchestra version of "Black Angels" that augments the original composition while retaining its forces of amplified string quartet and percussion. Following the recording, Izquierdo worked with recording engineers Riccardo Schulz and Harold Walls to edit and master the recording and add special effects. Nicolas Baron of Diapason magazine wrote that the recording was "well constructed with very interesting source spatialization in both width and depth. Very transparent with beautiful dynamic range."

"Makrokosmos III," for two pianos and percussion, featured faculty members Manriquez and Morales as pianists and students from the percussion studio. Morales performs as a piano soloist and is the regular conductor of the Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble.

Under Izquierdo, the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic has made many important contributions to contemporary music. In 1997, the orchestra released a disc of works by Iannis Xenakis and Edgard Varese. In 2001, the orchestra recorded several large-scale pieces by Giacinto Scelsi — including several pieces making their debut on disc. Izquierdo studied composition in Chile and conducting with Hermann Scherchen before becoming assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein in New York.

The French award is one of the most prestigious awards in classical music. Other recipients include the Berlin Philharmonic and pianist Claudio Arrau.

Carnegie Mellon's recording of Crumb's music is on the Mode label, which is devoted to recording contemporary music. "This release offers a wonderful magnification of effects and a striking diversity of sonic palettes," Baron wrote.