Libera me, Liebermann

Once again, I find myself wanting to write about a concert I helped organize. OPUS ONE played the East Coast premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s new piano quartet tonight, and I loved it, so I just wanted to say:

After the discouraging experience of Sunday’s concert, what a joy it was to hear a committed, impassioned performance of a strong new piece of music.

(Also, total bonus to hear both Kavafian sisters – Ani and Ida – perform in the same week.)

Ida Kavafian, the quartet’s violinist, introduced the piano quartet as a “perfect circle” in which the musical elements return to bring the piece around to where it began. It’s beautifully paced: each motive, texture, gesture is explored deeply enough that it begins to feel familiar, and when the music moves on it feels right. I remember the quiet oscillations of the opening, the spun-out melodic lines; the long unison string melody in the middle, set against austere chords in the piano; the explosion into the moto perpetuo section; the return of the chorale; the wisp of sound as the last notes evaporated into the air.

Liebermann’s piece is tonal and shamelessly beautiful, centered around what might be considered D minor but wandering far enough into chromatic territory that it doesn’t sound pat. There are some major and minor triads; mostly there are dissonances, often diatonic, often with embedded perfect fourths and fifths. His harmony is the kind that sounds wholesome, like holding rich soil from the garden in your cupped hands.

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