Margaret Leng Tan to perform music of George Crumb

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Tonight, Margaret Leng Tan will perform the first two volumes of George Crumb’s “Makrokosmos,” a series of ambitious works for solo piano dating from 1972-3, in celebration of the composer’s 75th birthday. Patterned after such other two-volume works such as Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and Debussy’s Preludes, each piece of each set is assigned a Zodiac symbol, and the strange timbres Crumb coaxes from an ordinary piano reinforces the mystical dimension. The piano itself is amplified, and the pianist must reach inside the instrument to pluck the strings by hand, chant Latin incantations and strike the frame of the piano with her knuckles (one movement also requires a whistler). “I was very excited about the expanding possibilities of the piano medium- it seemed as if a whole new world was opening up to composers,” the composer says in his notes to the piece. The title (meaning “large world”) also implicitly acknowledges Bela Bartok, whose “Mikrokosmos” (“little world”) are familiar to many beginning piano students.

Margaret Leng Tan was the first women to receive a Doctorate in Musical Arts from Julliard. She is known for her performances of modern and avant-garde music, particularly music of Asian composers. She is also the world’s only professional toy pianist and has recorded a CD of works for toy piano, giving it a new legitimacy. Crumb has called her one of the finest interpreters of his music.

The concert will take place at 8:00 in Lang Concert Hall.

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