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ALLA BREVE

July 19, 1987|ALLAN ULRICH

CRUMB: "A LITTLE SUITE FOR CHRISTMAS, A.D. 1979." WERNICK: SONATA FOR PIANO ("REFLECTIONS OF A DARK LIGHT"). Lambert Orkis, piano. Bridge BCD-9003 (compact disc). Crumb's 15-minute essay won't replace "Silent Night" on the yuletide hit parade, but the composer's seven aural pictures, inspired by Giotto's 14th-Century Nativity frescoes in Padua, provide a gripping adventure in percussive sonorities. Wernick's 40-minute sonata (which borrows thematic material from Crumb) is a tougher, more unyielding proposition that ranges from austere chords and motivic fragments to a closing theme and variations. Despite moments of granitic power, the 1982 work fails to sustain the argument over the long haul. Both works were written for Orkis; he responds with performances composed of dedication and clarity.

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