LIEUWEN: Chamber Music

SOLI Chamber Ensemble; Cumberland Wind Quintet; Isaac Bustos, g; Andrzej Grabiec, v; Timoth Hester, p MSR 1581—55 minutes

Peter Lieuwen, Professor of Music and Composer in Residence at Texas A & M, writes music full of clear melodic lines, dreamy lyricism, and jazzy syncopation. He is a very listenable composer, and I mean that in the most positive way. He obviously writes for the pleasure of players and audiences, but he does not dumb down. His sensibility is basically classical— structures are always clear, compact, and logical—but there is a romantic undercurrent of strong emotion. The harmonies are basically tonal or modal but full of spice, variety, and expressive dissonance. Overland Dream, an evocation of the Amerian West from 2011, has the biggest gestures and the most contrast, from Bartokian motor rhythms to pastoral lines for clarinet and cello. The 2009 Guitar Sonata will be a treat for any guitar aficionado, as it exploits everything the instrument has to offer, including delicate overtones. The Fiero and Vivace movements are virtuoso showpieces, and the tranquillo middle movement has a dry elegance. Guitarist Isaac Bustos, for whom the piece is written, wanted a “big piece” from Lieuwen, and he certainly got it. The Rhapsody for violin and piano is the lushest, most song-like work, with a soaring violin line played with passion by Andrzej Grabiec. Like Overland Dream, it concludes with a dreamlike jazz chord. The wittiest piece in this upbeat program is Windjammer, a neo-classical exercise full of piquant harmonies and bright colors for wind quintet. All the players seem to be enjoying themselves—not always the case with contemporary programs. The recording is vibrant and clear, just right for the music. I haven’t heard a guitar sound this realistic in years; the music sounds like it’s coming from inside the instrument.