“Overland Dream” = PETER LIEUWEN: Overland Dream; Guitar Sonata; Windjammer for Woodwind Quintet; Rhapsody for Violin and Piano – SOLI Ch. Ens./ Isaac Bustos, guitar/ Cumberland Wind Quintet/ Andrzej Grabiec, v./ Timothy Hester, p. – MSR Classics MS 1581, 54:46 [Distr. by Albany] *****:
Peter Lieuwen acts as Professor of Music and Composer-in-Residence at Texas A&M University. His music is tough to pin down; unabashedly tonal, I detect borrowings from Nordic composers like Nielsen, the French school of Les Six, meanderings originating in Hindemith and winding up in the prolific contrapuntal work of people like Walter Hartley and the considered modern melodists like Samuel Barber. But this is only by way of analogy—he is his own voice, easily.
Overland Dream sets the stage for all the niceties to come. This “panoramic soundscape of the American West” (notes) exercises that all-too-familiar feeling of open spaces and the broadest of possibilities, an innate positivism that works well especially in an election year! The ensemble makeup of clarinet, violin, cello, and piano covers the widest of colorist gamut in this ear-catching opus. The Guitar Sonata is something that needs a lot of attention. So many have tried and failed in this genre simply because the technical demands are underestimated or misunderstood. Lieuwen gets them all, and turns in a piece simplicity and brilliance, making full use of the guitar’s natural strength in reverberation and color.
Windjammer is a delightful piece that most reminds me of the late French impressionist school dovetailing into Les Six. It contains moments that are meant to remind one of the sea, yet its playfulness could have come from the textbooks of Jean Francaix. Finally, the delicious Rhapsody for violin and piano show the composer at his astute best, navigating the difficulties of the violin while providing a soaring and intensely lyrical vehicle for both instruments of engaging conciseness and expansive tonal emotion. MSR’s sound is top notch, and this is a highly recommended issue. Best of all, the cover says “Volume 1”.