PETER LIEBER­SON Red Garuda, Rilke Songs (bridge)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Santa Fe res­i­dent Peter Lieber­son stands in the front rank of liv­ing Amer­i­can com­posers. Through the course of four decades, he has pro­duced an oeu­vre of mod­est size, but each piece is metic­u­lously crafted, tech­ni­cally com­pelling, and emo­tion­ally pre­cise. For what­ever rea­son, his mu­sic is se­ri­ously un­der-rep­re­sented on disc, a sit­u­a­tion that is ad­dressed by this gen­er­ously proportioned CD con­tain­ing four sig­nif­i­cant works in dif­fer­ent gen­res. The prob­ing pi­anist Peter Serkin is at the cen­ter of all four, most spec­tac­u­larly in Lieber­son’s Pi­ano Con­certo No. 2 (ti­tled Red Garuda), as­sem­bled from live per­for­mances in 2004 with the New York Phil­har­monic (James Conlon con­duct­ing) that are noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar. It re­flects Lieber­son’s in­ter­est in Asian spir­i­tual prac­tices — a garuda is a gi­ant bird of Hindu and Bud­dhist mytholo­gies — but the ac­tive, ex­cit­ing mu­si­cal lan­guage is strictly Western. Mys­tery and melan­choly hover in a cap­ti­vat­ing set of pi­ano ba­gatelles, and the Orion String Quar­tet joins Serkin for a pro­fi­cient, if not en­dear­ing, read­ing of Lieber­son’s Pi­ano Quin­tet. Bridge Records pre­vi­ously re­leased Lieber­son’s five Rilke Songs in live per­for­mances with the mez­zoso­prano Lor­raine Hunt Lieber­son, his late wife. Now the com­pany shares the stu­dio record­ing she made with Serkin in Au­gust 2005, a year be­fore her pass­ing. It’s a mas­terly in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a sub­lime set of songs. — James M. Keller

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