Lieuwen appeals on many different levels, and this offering demonstrates his recognisable and accessible style.'
Peter Lieuwen was born in the Netherlands in 1953 but grew up and was educated in the US. His music is widely performed and has considerable appeal. Strong influences include jazz and world music.
The fourteen-minute Sarumba, scored for two solo violins and chamber orchestra, was written in 2015. It starts with a faint shimmer then launches straight away into a bright and rhythmic movement. The texture is light so the solo parts are always audible, and there are effective keyboard and percussion interjections which provide tonal variation in what would otherwise be a string affair. The ensemble, Deutsche Kammeracadamie Neuss, and two soloists under director Lavard Skou Larsen, give a tight and inspired performance. This work goes through a variety of mood changes, is essentially a double concerto and alludes to five Brazilian dance rhythms. It is quite exciting, and a work I think the listener will enjoy.
The three-movement Chamber Symphony (2013) features the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra under director Franz Anton Krager. The first movement, Nature - You are a vineyard newly blossomed, reflects on springtime, with its awakening, and its sometimes changeable weather. I enjoyed this for many reasons - the performance itself, and also the writing. The composer provides contrast of mood and texture, but the scoring is clean and transparent, so one never feels bored or bogged down. The restrained and finely worked second movement, Love - Young, Beautiful and growing in Eden, is based on a hymn or song often sung at Georgian weddings, celebrating youth, love and beauty. The original tune dates back to the tenth century. In contrast, the last movement, Cosmos - You yourself are the sun, shining brightly, is bright, exuberant and full of energy. There's a great section featuring marimba, vibraphone and piano. A restlessness here drives this music forward.
The Quad Concerto (2015) places a small group of solo instruments - clarinet, violin, cello and piano - against a larger force. Sometimes the individual instruments are soloists, and at other times they're paired with instruments drawn from the larger ensemble. This is a kind of reworking of the Baroque concerto grosso. The forces here are the Soli Chamber Ensemble and the Moores Symphony Orchestra, again ably directed by Lavard Skou Larsen. At the opening the brass are impressive and provide a kind of fanfare. The composer creates many differing textures and moods, which really makes the music exciting. This is certainly not a dry academic pastiche of an earlier form. I like this work very much, and the performance, like that of all the other works on this disc, is polished, committed and professional.
Concerto Alfesco for trumpet and orchestra, again from 2013, features the excellent trumpeter Allen Vizutti, the Moores Symphony Orchestra and conductor Franz Anton Krager. Like the previous works here, you could describe it as being neoclassical, but it is infused with latin jazz and rock influences, along with improvisation and other devices. In spite of all these diverse elements, the work is surprisingly unified and coherently stylish. Most audiences will enjoy this, even if they are not normally drawn to contemporary music.
All in all, I was very pleased to review this disc. Peter Lieuwen appeals on many different levels, and this offering demonstrates his recognisable and accessible style. His music is never boring, and speaks to a wide audience. I cannot fault the performances, the booklet provides excellent information about the works, and I am certainly encouraged that all the works presented here were written within the last decade.
Geoff Pearce, Sydney, Australia / https://www.classicalmusicdaily.com/2019/08/lieuwen.htm