Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: Atlantic Crossing/Rhapsodic Images

The Four Cycles
Official Release: August 12, 2016

Composer: Peter Scott Lewis
Publisher: Theodore Presser
Producer: Naxos – American Classics

Add to Cart   

 

[ indicates Full length audio sample]

  TRACK TITLE DURATION FLASH PLAYER MP3
    Where the Heart Is Pure      
  1. 1. Where the Heart Is Pure 7:15
MP3 Player
  2. 2. Night Along the Columbia 6:34
MP3 Player
3. 3. Spring Poem in the Skagit Valley 2:04
MP3 Player
N/A
     
    The Changing Light      
  4. 1. The Changing Light 2:45
MP3 Player
  5. 2. Big Sur Light 6:11
MP3 Player
  6. 3. The Moon Stayed Full Last Month 5:07
MP3 Player
7. 4. Dictionaries of Light 1:55
MP3 Player
N/A
     
    Five Love Motets      
  8. 1. Dreaming 1:55
MP3 Player
  9. 2. In Evergreen Forest 2:26
MP3 Player
  10. 3. Of the Ocean 2:36
MP3 Player
11. 4. The Rhythm of Your Soul 2:37
MP3 Player
N/A
  12. 5. Enveloping Our Love 2:33
MP3 Player
     
    Three Songs From Ish River      
  13. 1. What Day Is It Now? 2:08
MP3 Player
14. 2. Going Out To Meet the Moon Whales 2:24
MP3 Player
N/A
  15. 3. Once More the Round 1:41
MP3 Player
      Total: 50:28    

 

Performers:
Track 1-3: Christine Abraham, mezzo-soprano; and Keisuke Nakagoshi, piano
Track 4-7: New York Virtuoso Singers, Peter Lewis, conductor; Stephen Gosling, piano
(Vocal Quartet: Martha Cluver, Silvie Jensen, Eric Dudley and Steven Hrycelak)
Track 8-12: New York Virtuoso Singers, Peter Lewis, conductor
(Vocal Quartet: Martha Cluver, Silvie Jensen, Eric Dudley and Steven Hrycelak)
Track 13-15: Susan Narucki, soprano; Colin McAllister, guitar

Reviews

 


THE EPONYMOUS OPENING SONG of Peter Scott Lewis’s Where the Heart is Pure, the eminently attractive cycle that kicks off this new Naxos collection of his vocal music, begins with an energized, quasi-Bartókian intro on solo piano. It’s soon joined by a striking vocalise, courtesy of mezzo Christine Abraham, that gradually soothes the accompaniment into relative tranquility. Thus, once the actual text begins, we’re in the right mood for the vivid Pacific Northwest imagery of Robert Sund’s poem. (Lewis writes in the notes that this cycle depicts his own journey from San Francisco to visit Sund in Washington State.) In the second song, “Night Along the Columbia,” Lewis uses an evocative rolling triplet accompaniment to underscore the first part of the poem (“Far out on the dark river / A fish jumps”), and continues to provide equally well-suited musical representations for the excursions that follow. Lewis is skilled at setting his texts so that the meaning and imagery land with impact, and his euphonious, extended tonal language is a good fit for Sund’s idyllic celebrations. Abraham’s clear, glowing declamations are as eloquent as the music and the poetry; she is given sympathetic support throughout by the sensitive pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi, who also provides fine descriptive playing in the solo passages.
In The Changing Light, a four-part cycle for vocal quartet and piano, Lewis’s originality emerges more fully. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s opening line declares “The changing light of San Francisco / is none of your East Coast light / none of your / pearly lights of Paris,” and Lewis follows suit with strikingly bright and pungent harmonies, including a touch of Manhattan Transfer-style jazz. The kaleidoscopic chromaticisms are vivid musical representations of the different kinds of light (“Changing Light,” “Big Sur Light,” and “Dictionaries of Light”) depicted in this cycle. Commissioned by Craig Hella Johnson for his vocal ensemble Conspirare, the piece originally called for twenty-four singers and an instrumental quintet, but it works exceptionally well in this crystalline, stripped-down version, as dazzlingly rendered by The New York Virtuoso Singers Quartet with Stephen Gosling at the piano. The Five Love Motets that follow call for a cappella vocal quartet, and here the four singers are even more impressive, foregoing any pitch reference from the piano. Setting his own texts, Lewis again provides artful, sophisticated sonorities, as if love opens up previously unexplored harmonic possibilities.

After those two cycles, the ear needs a break from the vocal quartet texture, which Lewis provides with his early cycle Three Songs From Ish River (1976–78) for soprano and guitar (Lewis’s own instrument), to poems by Theodore Roethke. The moving, folk-like elegy “Going Out to Meet the Moon Whales” is striking in its relative simplicity. The cycle’s first entry, “What day is it now?,” shows more harmonic and melodic inventiveness; together, the two songs show Lewis’s creative range in writing for the voice-and-guitar. The versatile, accomplished soprano Susan Narucki and dexterous guitarist Colin McAllister perform all three songs smoothly and persuasively.
American composer Peter Scott Lewis (b. 1953) is a masterful creator of song cycles, as we readily hear in his recent offering The Four Cycles (Naxos 8.559815), which includes his complete vocal music to date. He is both modern and expressive at the same time, capable of writing in a harmonically ultra-advanced, edgy tonality or at times staying closer to a key center, his piano parts sometimes complicated, moving especially in the case of "Where the Heart is Pure (Duo Version)" (1993/2013) where Christine Abraham's  mezzo-soprano has a massive impact that the piano part (Keisuke Nakagoshi) makes tangible and modern-dramatic.

"The Changing Light" (2013) and "Five Love Motets" (2014) are scored for The New York Virtuoso Singers Quartet and, for the first of these cycles,  piano (Stephen Gosling). They are beautifully conceived and performed, with a four-part counterpart-homophony that stands out as constituting some of the most accomplished chamber vocal music of our times. There is a sure hand at work and results that tintinnabulate in the ear with irresistible heft and charm. The final "Three Songs from he Ish River" (1976-78) substitutes classical guitar (Colin McAllister) for the usual piano, and thrives on soprano Susan Narucki's delightful nuance.

This is "pure" vocal music in an international modern style. There are no obvious vernacular touches but instead a play on consonance and dissonance, almost hearkening back to the Viennese School but ultimately original and captivating in its own right.

It's a surprise and will be a joy for all attracted to the modern-day extensions of the lieder.

Bravo!
Peter Scott Lewis has a vivid and idiosyncratic affinity for the human voice, as heard on ‘The Four Cycles’, a disc that spans four decades of creative activity. The San Francisco-based composer writes in a style that might be termed ‘rugged lyricism’, with vocal lines and harmonies taking unpredictable directions. A certain sonic pungency invigorates the texts, which are centred on nature and love.

Lewis wrote the verses for Five Love Motets (2014) for a cappellaquartet.  The songs are concise and unsentimental, the voices wrapped around the words in ways that suggest the challenges love often presents. Similar in mood is The Changing Light, three songs setting texts by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Four voices and piano explore the various hues in close communication.

‘Where the heart is pure’ originally dates from 1993; Lewis transformed the chamber version into a duo for mezzo-soprano and piano in 2013. Robert Sund’s texts reflect aspects of his native state, Washington – the first of the three songs, ‘There is no exile where the heart is pure (for Pablo Casals)’ opens with a yearning vocalize. The oldest collection, Three Songs from Ish River (1976-78), places Sund, Paule Barton and Theodore Roethke in succinct, intimate contexts for soprano and guitar. The performers include two vibrant soloists, mezzo-soprano Christine Abraham and soprano Susan Narucki, and the expert New York Virtuoso Singers Quartet conducted by the composer.

The music of San Francisco composer Peter Scott Lewis combines ingratiating surfaces — strong-boned tonal harmonies and melodic gracefulness — with secure structural underpinnings that keep everything logically in place. The results come through handsomely in this compilation of four song cycles of various hues and scales, all of them performed with delicacy and vigor. Two of the pieces are for vocal quartet (the aptly named New York Virtuoso Singers Quartet), and Lewis makes canny use of this textural resource — particularly in “The Changing Light,” a group of Lawrence Ferlinghetti settings that capture the poet’s spacious, muscular rhetoric and crisply turned lines. Even more arresting are the solo works, beginning with “Where the Heart Is Pure,” a slimmed-down version of a 1993 work that sounds all the sleeker with just piano accompaniment; mezzo-soprano Christine Abraham and pianist Keisuke Nakagoshibring out the music’s vaulting pictorialism. But the tiny, sparkling gem here is “Three Songs From Ish River,” a gorgeous and maddeningly brief triptych delivered superbly by soprano Susan Narucki and guitarist Colin McAllister. It’s painful to arrive so quickly at the end.
The Four Cycles in this release on the Naxos label's fine American Classics series are song cycles in the classic sense, unified by a common poetic thread and musical structure. One even feels that San Francisco composer Peter Scott Lewis has the Romantic Lied tradition in mind with his lengthy introductions that set forth mood, concept, and pitch inventory for most of the songs. This said, the four cycles differ substantially from one another, with vocabulary ranging from nearly conventional tonality in the brief, guitar-accompanied Three Songs from Ish River to substantially irregular chords and rhythms in the opening Where the Heart Is Pure. Two are for vocal quartet, not solo voice, and perhaps the Five Love Motets (2014), with texts by Lewis himself, work the best here: they are less motets than madrigals, with the texture fitting the texts effectively. The New York Virtuoso Singers Quartet also catches the informal language of Lawrence Ferlinghetti in The Changing Light (2013). Sample one from this cycle to get the considerable subtlety in Lewis' pictorial text setting, but it's in evidence throughout, and it lends the music substantial appeal. These are songs that contemporary singers should get to know; they could enliven any recital. 
Peter Scott Lewis, born in 1953, belongs to that group of North American composers who work in a musical language based on the modern use of tonality. The present disc covers his complete output of vocal music in the shape of song cycles beginning almost forty years ago with Three Songs From Ish River. Written over a two year period, and using the Indian name for the coastal area of Washington State, it uses a soprano and guitar to paint words in music, though the poems used are then for the reader’s interpretation. At this point in his career he was not a ‘lyrical’ writer, in the way we normally use that word, and at times the voice leaps around in the style of Alban Berg. Where the Heart is Pure came fifteen years later, his writing having matured and linked back with Americana in the era of Copland, accompaniment playing a more important part of the pictures he is creating. Using poems by Robert Sund that reflect rural America, it is here performed in a version for piano and mezzo, an adaptation of the original score for voice and chamber orchestra. Another twenty years pass to The Changing Light, his ideas far more striking and outgoing with the use of a vocal quartet and piano. There are hints of the ‘close harmony’ of popular music from yesteryear as we move into the city of San Francisco for the opening song. Three years ago he completed Five Love Motets to his own poems, in much the same mode but now in the classical world of the motet. With the composer in charge of the recording sessions, I am sure he was well pleased with the performances.

 

 

 

Recordings

View All Recordings »
Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: River Shining Through

The Four Cycles

Composer: Peter Scott Lewis
Publishers: Theodore Presser
Producer: Naxos – American Classics © & ℗ 2016

 

Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: River Shining Through

River Shining Through

Composer: Peter Scott Lewis
Publishers: Theodore Presser/ASCAP and Lapis Island Press/ASCAP
Cover Painting: Ward Schumaker
Producer: Lapis Island Records: LIR003 © & ℗ 2007

Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: Atlantic Crossing/Rhapsodic Images

Atlantic Crossing/Rhapsodic Images

Composer: Peter Scott Lewis
Publisher: Theodore Presser
Cover Photo: Rondal Partridge
Producer: Lapis Island Records: LIR002 © & ℗ 2004

Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: Three Suites for Guitar

Three Suites for Guitar

Composer/Soloist: Peter Scott Lewis
Publishers: Theodore Presser and Lapis Island Press
Cover Photo: Rob de Jong
Producer: Lapis Island Records: LIR001 © & ℗ 2003

Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: Where the Heart is Pure

Where the Heart is Pure

Composer: Peter Scott Lewis
Poetry: Robert Sund
Publisher: Theodore Presser
Cover Art: Nathan Oliveira
Producer: New Albion Records: NA079 © & ℗ 1996

Peter Scott Lewis, Peter Lewis, Peter Lewis, Composer: Beaming Contrasts

Beaming Contrasts

Composer: Peter Scott Lewis
Publisher: Theodore Presser
Cover Art: Clayton Lewis
Producer: New Albion Records: NA060 © & ℗ 1993

 

For securely purchasing CD's over the internet:

eMusic, Rhapsody, and Spotify.
Amazon US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. For additional domestic and international sales and web sites, please search Froogle and Google. In addition, there are direct links to iTunes and Amazon.com on the Recording Contents Page. These CD's are also available in stores.

Distribution:

Lapis Island Records is distributed by City Hall Record Distribution and The Orchard/Sony Music. Naxos Records, New Albion Records, and Theodore Presser Company publications are widely distributed throughout the world. Please refer to those companies for any additional information.

Recording Engineer: Robert Shumaker

Donations:

Please note that Lapis Island Records has non-profit status through the San Francisco Study Center, it’s fiscal sponsor. Therefore any funding assistance is welcomed and appreciated. Recent Grant: Argosy Foundation, for River Shining Through CD.

For commissioning new work:

Please contact composer.