Lowell Liebermann has achieved a reputation of writing some of the most melancholy, even gloomy, music on the planet. It is difficult to know why this is, and I have been unable to find any clues in a multitude of album notes and interviews that I have seen. As I do not regularly subscribe to the notion of a composer’s worldview or mood making its way into his music, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly depressed about the man himself, who turns out a plethora of compositions every year and has rightly garnered a great deal of popularity and performance options. Many call his music “conservative” or “neo-Classical,” and while there is truth residing in each of these terms, his art is far broader than that, as are the ensembles that he composes for. His voice is perhaps not distinctive and unique, but in my experience these days, few are, except for those I can’t stand and whom I question as to whether it is really music they are writing to begin with.
Raymond Tuttle covered a “complete” Liebermann flute album on Koch in Fanfare 27:3 to generally good notice, and while I did not hear that album I have no doubts as to Alexa Still’s abilities, having heard her play other composers. David Fedele, whose name heads up the ensemble here (along with cellist Matthew Herren and pianist Robert Koenig), found hanging out in the summers at the International Institute for Young Artists at the University of Kansas, plays with a gracious manner that feels especially attuned to Liebermann’s more spectral and wandering moments (especially the opening Lento of the Flute Sonata). I can’t imagine it done better, though Still’s fans might argue. But the real prizes here, and composed (2002, 2004) too late for inclusion on the Koch disc—which ran out of space anyway—are the two new flute trios. Lieberman has upped the ante in these works and has created some wonderfully evocative and siren-like pieces that glue the attention even when the specific momentary musical matters defy such attraction. Aside from the classical elegance of the first and the superior lyrical leanings of the second—where the flute and cello often play in octaves, and often with the cello the higher line, his mood setting is such that he gets away with murder during the down times. You have been so seduced into his world that the times of musical neutrality become anxious waiting rooms for the next excursion into his mysterious moods.
The sound is excellent, with all instruments allowed the requisite amount of resonance. This is truly an important album of some moment, and for me a mid-season Want List nomination.- Steven Ritter