Liebermann’s Colorful Orchestral Music

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Lowell Liebermann’s orchestral music is consistently engaging, colorful, tuneful, and approachable at a first listen, but also clearly modern in the sense that it could not have been written at any other time. At no point does it sound like he is writing “down” to his audience merely because the music happens to be largely tonal. He even has a vivid sense of humor, as witnessed in the Mozart Variations, which take the theme through a witty range of musical styles and genres.

Nocturne is aptly atmospheric, brooding, and even spooky in places, with some lush, romantic writing for the strings and a sensitive emphasis on the harp. Revelry, as the title suggests, is a cheerful, up-tempo intermezzo that could become quite popular given half a chance; but the main item is the imposing Concerto for Orchestra. Lasting about half an hour in three connected movements, this is an expertly crafted virtuoso essay that gives everyone a moment to shine at some point, and it’s a tribute to Liebermann’s technique that even the licks for the odder instruments make sense in their context.

The performances here, very well recorded by the BBC in 2002/03, sound quite impressive. Grant Llewellyn leads the BBC Symphony in bold, confident performances that suit the music’s character very well. Like so many modern composers, Liebermann often gives virtuoso solos to the brass section, both singly and collectively, and the section responds with gusto. One tiny point: the booklet notes credit Bartók with “inventing” the Concerto for Orchestra. This of course is nonsense; his piece was preceded by several other significant masterworks, not least those of Hindemith and Casella.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: No reference recording

    Concerto for Orchestra; Variations on a Theme by Mozart; Nocturne; Revelry

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