Peter Lieuwen Concertos – Buoyant and animated

This is a release I’d like to keep on hand for all those curmudgeons who complain that contemporary classical music is ugly and unlistenable. Peter Lieuwen’s compositions are anything but. There’s a certain exuberance in his music that I find appealing. My impression is that Lieuwen isn’t concerned with discovering new sounds never heard before — he just wants to create the best music possible using the tools already at hand.

And in that, I think he succeeds. While his music is decidedly tonal, it’s also contemporary in character and form. And while it’s accessible to the first-time listener, the music’s substantial enough to merit repeated plays.

The first movement of Lieuwen’s 2012 Cello Concerto is marked “buoyant and animated,” and that’s exactly how cellist Nicholas Jones plays it. I found the cello’s tone a little pinched, but I think that was more the fault of the recording than the playing.

The 2008 Concerto for Piano, Marimba, and Orchestra was written for brothers Leonel and Jesus Morales (piano and marimba, respectively). It’s an unusual combination of solo instruments, but one that works really well.

Lieuwen actually uses both vibraphone and marimba as solo keyboard percussion instruments. Both are used quite effectively. This is a concerto that should definitely enter the repertoire. The solo passages for keyboard percussion and the piano have a give-and-take to them that (I assume) is a musical expression of the brothers’ relationship. I got the impression this concerto would be great fun to see live.

If you’re a fan of the new traditionalists, such as Kevin Puts or Carter Pann, I think you’ll find much to enjoy in the music of Peter Lieuwen.

Peter Lieuwen: Concertos
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra: Nicholas Jones, cello; Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Romance for Violin, Cello, and Piano; Andrzej Grabiec, violin; Misha Quint, cello; Carlo Alessandro Labenga, piano
Vivace for String Orchestra: Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Concerto for Piano, Marimba, and Orchestra: Leonel Morales, piano; Jesus Morales, marimba; Texas Music Festival Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
World Premier Recordings
MSR Classics MS1582

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