Peter Lieberson Concertos

Peter Lieberson: Piano Concerto No. 3; Viola Concerto

Steven Beck, piano; Roberto Diaz, viola

Odense Symphony Orchestra; Scott Yoo, conductor

Peter Lieberson admitted that, as a student, he could spend the day studying the twelve-tone music of Stravinsky, then go home and enjoy a Barber concerto. He thought it important to balance asceticism with sensuality. And that balance is present in these two concertos — albeit not in quite the same places.

The Piano Concerto No. 3 (2003), is the final one in the series. The opening movement bristles with energy, unrestrained by the limits of tonality. After an introspective but softly dissonant middle movement, the work finishes with a flourish in a jazz-like style. To my ears, the work seems to lean slightly towards the ascetic rather than the sensual, although there’s plenty of emotion contained in the music.

Steven Beck delivers a remarkable performance. The piano part is densely written, and sounds fiendishly difficult, yet Beck’s performance is sure and authoritative. Even in the busiest of passages, Beck communicates the underlying organization of the music, demonstrating that every note is there for a reason, and he knows exactly what that reason is.

The Viola Concerto (1992/2003) leans a little more towards the sensual. Lieberson takes advantage of the dark tone of the instrument, giving it long, lyrical melodies that are unashamedly beautiful. The dissonances are muted compared to those of the piano concerto, although there are plenty of prickly passages throughout the work.

Violist Roberto Diaz plays with a  full-blooded tone that keeps the music from sounding too sentimental — it’s expressive, but there’s a manliness about it, too.

Fascinating works by a unique compositional voice.

Peter Lieberson: Piano Concerto No. 3; Viola Concerto

Steven Beck, piano; Roberto Diaz, viola; Odense Symphony Orchestra; Scott Yoo, conductor
Bridge Records

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