Read my review published today in the Style section of the Washington Post:
Charles T. Downey, National Chamber Ensemble
Washington Post, January 31, 2011
National Chamber Ensemble
American composer Lowell Liebermann joined members of the National Chamber Ensemble for a concert in Rosslyn's Spectrum Theater on Saturday night. The program paired music by Liebermann with that of Beethoven, one of his primary influences.
Quintets / Songs
Violinist Leo Sushansky, the group's artistic director, had a meaty sound in Beethoven's Romance in F, Op. 50, and Liebermann gave a booming rendition of the orchestral reduction on a restored 1865 Steinway piano, a loaned instrument more beautiful to the eyes than the ears. The other Beethoven work, the First Piano Trio, Op. 1, was similarly lessened by momentary technical slips, occasional sour intonation and some ensemble blockiness. The venue's dry acoustics didn't help, although the third movement had a delightful spring in its step and the fourth was abundant in jovial wit. [Continue reading]
With Lowell Liebermann, piano
Beethoven, Piano Trio No. 1 (op. 1/1) and Romance for Violin and Orchestra (F major, op. 50)
Liebermann, Piano Trio No. 1, op. 32, and Piano Quintet, op. 34
Spectrum Theater (Rosslyn, Va.)
Lowell Liebermann, who will celebrate his fiftieth birthday next month, was educated at Juilliard, where his composition teachers were David Diamond and Vincent Persichetti. Many prominent musicians have embraced and championed Liebermann's works, including James Galway, who has played the composer's flute concerto, Stephen Hough (he played the piano concerto here under Rostropovich with the NSO), Jon Manasse (clarinet concerto), and Steven Isserlis (who premiered the cello sonata with Hough). The traditional qualities of Liebermann's music drew the admiration of none other than Terry Teachout, one of the conservative voices who would like to forget that the atonal phase of music history ever happened. Singling out Liebermann as "a composer unafraid of grand gestures and openhearted lyricism," Teachout lumped him with a group he dubbed the New Tonalists, a term that Liebermann himself does not approve. For more background on Liebermann, read his interview with Bruce Duffie and the feature on Sequenza21/. The news arrived the morning of the concert that Milton Babbitt, the dean of American post-tonal academic composers, had died, signaling the end of an age, the age of music that is most often contrasted with that of Liebermann. Asked about what Babbitt's passing might mean for the future of the complex music he favored, Liebermann tactfully declined to comment.