LIEUWEN Cello Concerto.1 Romance for Violin, Cello, and Piano.2 Vivace for String Orchestra.3 Concerto for Piano and Marimba4 • 1, 3, 4Franz Anton Krager, cond; 2Andrzej Grabiec (vn); 1Nicholas Jones, 2Misha Quint (vc); 4Leonel Morales, 2Carlo Alessandro Lapegna (pn); 4Jesus Morales (mmb); 1, 3Slovak Natl SO; 4Texas Music Festival O • MSR 1582 (63:59)
This is extremely well-crafted, user-friendly and beguilingly seductive music composed by a Netherlands-born composer who grew up in New Mexico. Peter Lieuwen studied at the University of New Mexico and the University of California, Santa Barbara with Scott Wilkinson, William Wood, Edward Applebaum, Emma Lou Diemer, and Peter Racine Fricker. After stints as a teacher of composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as a faculty member of Texas A& M University, and as the inaugural head of the Department of Performance studies at that same institution, he became its professor of music and composer-in-residence.
Lieuwen’s music is built upon tiny, metrically even, and motorically repeated cells or kernels, over which he overlays sustained lines that provide harmonically rich textures in a most gratifying way. One could glean from what I have written that he is a proponent of the Minimalism of Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, or John Adams. Not quite so. Lieuwen’s harmonic rhythms move at a far faster rate, providing more of a sense of forward motion than of stasis. To all of this one must add his mastery of instrumental color, which I found especially gratifying in his Romance for Violin, Cello, and Piano (the only piece of chamber music on this disc), his Vivace for string orchestra, and especially his Concerto for Piano, Marimba, and Orchestra.
The soloists are all world-class and provide rhythmically astute, sonically sumptuous, and highly nuanced performances. Both of the instrumental ensembles—the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra and the Texas Music Festival Orchestra (a training ensemble of long standing)—acquit themselves admirably under American-born and -trained conductor Franz Anton Krager. We have certainly come a long way since I began reviewing for Fanfare, seemingly eons ago, as far as the level of instrumental execution is concerned. It is now astronomically high by the standards of my more youthful days. Needless to say, this offering is unequivocally a candidate for Want List membership.
This article originally appeared in Issue 40:1 (Sept/Oct 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.