LIEBERMANN: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 39. Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, Op. 48. Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra, Op. 50
James Galway, flute/Hyun-Sun Na, harp/London Mozart Players/Lowell Liebermann, cond.
RCA VICTOR 63235 (F) (DDD) TT: 69:38

It is to James Galway's credit that he continues to enrich the catalog of contemporary music by commissioning new works. This CD offers premiere recordings of three concertos; Galway commissioned one, suggested another, and the third was commissioned by someone else as a result of Galway's commission. In this case, music of American composer Lowell Liebermann is featured. He already had won many awards and continues to please audiences with his rhapsodic, well-crafted music. His works include an opera (The Pictures of Dorian Gray), piano, vocal and chamber music, and many works for the flute. One of these is his Sonata for Flute and Piano, premiered in 1988. Galway admired this to the extent that he requested the composer to orchestrate it; Lieberman said he would prefer to write a new concerto, and this was premiered November 6, 1992 with Galway as soloist, Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. There are three movements to this 24-minute concerto, the first two pensive and lyrical, with the expected virtuoso finale.

Galway requested Liebermann to write a concerto for flute and harp; another consortium commissioned this (harpist Hyun-San Na, and four orchestras— Cincinnati and Dallas symphonies, Florida Philharmonic and the Minnesota Orchestra), and the premiere was given with the latter orchestra November 1, 1995, with Galway and harpist Kathy Kienzel (one might wonder why Na didn't play in the premiere). This is lighter in texture, a one-movement work of considerable beauty. Jan Gippo played piccolo in the St. Louis Symphony during the premiere of the flute concerto and commissioned Liebermann to write a concerto for piccolo, feeling that the American composer would be ideal for adding to the limited concerto repertory for the instrument. The work was premiered, with Gippo as soloist, August 18, 1996. There are three movements to this lively work: as in the flute concerto, the first two are rather sedate, but the finale is a romp all the way, quoting from Mozart's Symphony No. 40, Beethoven's Eroica, and The Stars and Stripes Forever, with a touch of Shostakovitch as well.

All three works are brilliantly played by Galway and harpist Na. As the composer is conducting the orchestra we can assume these are definitive performances. The reproduction is superb: clear and focused, with a fine resonance.

R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)