The following recordings feature some of the works that have been commissioned by Premiere Commission. These CDs are available through Amazon, iTunes and other online retailers.
Windows by Bruce Levingston
On January 26, 2018, Sono Luminus releases Windows [DSL 92137], the sixth album on the label featuring celebrated pianist, author, and founder of Premiere Commission, Inc., Bruce Levingston. Known for his nuanced interpretations and creative programming, Levingston's focus for this recording is on works which, he writes, "reflect a myriad of overlapping artistic influences and feature composers who have been inspired by multiple art forms." The album includes two works by Robert Schumann, Kinderszenen, Op. 15; and Arabeske, Op. 18, which are framed by two Premiere Commissions: The Shadow of the Blackbird (2011) by composer David Bruce, and James Matheson's Windows (2015), for which the album was titled.
The album opens with British composer David Bruce's two-movement work The Shadow of the Blackbird, which is inspired both by the music of Robert Schumann, and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. The composer writes, "For me, Wallace Stevens' poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird is one of the most moving meditations on life's mystery; moving partly because it circles around the mystery without trying to explain it." After discussions with the pianist about the commission, the composer became inspired by Levingston's recording of Schumann's Kreisleriana, and used the first few notes of the work as a starting point for his virtuosic composition. The Shadow of the Blackbird, like the Schumann work on which it is loosely based, has "something of a fantasia quality" and gently plays with the listener's perception of time and space.
The Bruce work is followed by two of Robert Schumann's most enduring and beloved compositions, Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (1838) and his Arabeske, Op. 18 (1839). For Levingston, the Schumann was an immediate choice for this album: "Schumann was deeply influenced by poetry and literature. His intimate Kinderszenen, a series of distilled little jewels that offer fleeting glimpses of childhood, is paired with the urbane, elegant Arabeske." While both works were composed within a year of each other, the pianist notes, "on a certain level, this work [Arabeske] is the emotional opposite of Kinderszenen. Its refined outer grace veils an undercurrent of longing and bittersweet complexity that is very much the domain of the adult world."
Rounding out the recording is the album's title work, Windows, by American composer James Matheson. The suite is comprised of five movements which depict the stained glass windows of Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse. The work was commissioned in 2015 by Premiere Commission, Inc., to celebrate the centennial of the Union Church of Pocantico Hills in New York.
The pianist writes, "This deeply touching, epic cycle of music captures the intimate, often heartrending, visions of Chagall as well as the powerful simplicity of Matisse's modern design which utilizes the striking collage forms he employed in his final years. Matheson's work also reflects the influence of Olivier Messiaen's own theologically-inspired music. Like the French master, Matheson utilizes large-scale blocks of harmonies with organ-like sonorities to support and shift the music's kaleidoscopic planes of color and set into relief the work's piercing motifs and intricate patterns. The universal themes of love and sacrifice (Jeremiah and Isaiah), loss and altruism (Crucifixion and The Good Samaritan) and the jubilant celebration of life and nature (The Rose) are memorably portrayed in this poignant tribute to the human spirit."
Dreaming Awake by Bruce Levingston
Pianist Bruce Levingston has had a long and celebrated association with Philip Glass and his music. In 2004, the composer wrote his musical tribute to the painter Chuck Close especially for Levingston who premiered the work at New York City's Lincoln Center. The following year, Glass joined Levingston in the same venue for a series of piano duos in a concert that also featured Levingston's longtime friend and Chelsea Hotel neighbor actor Ethan Hawke. At that concert, Levingston and Hawke performed Glass's "Wichita Vortex Sutra" that includes a narration of Allen Ginsberg's eponymous poem. Glass and Ginsberg had performed and recorded it themselves, but the composer enthusiastically blessed this performance by a new generation of artists. Glass, Hawke and Levingston then performed together the finale of Einstein on the Beach. Glass later invited Levingston to join him in premiering his complete Etudes at The Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City in 2014.
Now this extraordinary group of artists is reunited in this Sono Luminus release of Bruce Levingston's new album Dreaming Awake. Levingston pays tribute to Philip Glass with an exploration of his works that spans the length of the composer's career. The recording includes the world premiere of "The Illusionist Suite", ten of the composer's dramatic and deeply moving Etudes (including Etude No. 12 commissioned by Premiere Commission), as well as the richly colored tone poems "Dreaming Awake", "Metamorphosis No. 2" and "Wichita Vortex Sutra" featuring Ethan Hawke as guest artist reading the Allen Ginsberg poem.
This new 2-disc album radiates with what what The New York Times calls "Mr Levingston's mastery of nuance and color" and "his extraordinary gifts as a colorist and performer who can hold attention rapt with the softest playing" (MusicWeb International). It is a very intimate and personal tribute of the most influential and acclaimed composers of our era.
Heavy Sleep by Bruce Levingston
The title "Heavy Sleep" is meant to reference not only the eponymous opening work on this Album, but also to note the phrase's allusion to death and eternal sleep. Each work on this album relates either directly or spiritually to the theme of death, rebirth, or both. Voices of other composers or allusions to their own or others' works are also found throughout these pieces, often appearing as subtle homage to composers of the past: In the Andres work there are echos of both Bach and Chopin; in the Fairouz a direct tribute to Ligeti; in the Kurtag, Reger and Siloti arrangements there are reflections on Bach through the art of transcription; and in the original works of Bach himself, particularly in the great B minor Fugue, symbolic voices of God and man. Together, these works offer a touching perspective to the close spiritual connectivity we all share as artists and as human beings, culture to culture, past and present.
As I first listened to this collection of intimate, gentle music, I kept thinking how much it evokes a feeling of timelessness and stillness. From the minimal sounds of Arvo Part and Erik Satie to the reflective pieces of Augusta Gross and William Bolcom, each work, their harmonic and rhythmic movement notwithstanding, suggests a kind of spiritual stasis. Even the Romantic works of Schubert and Chopin, with their moments of surging emotion, possess magical, hypnotic qualities that lull the listener into a state of calm. The consistent impression of tranquility and serenity in these beautiful works led me to call this album Still Sound. - Bruce Levingston
The idea of titling this CD Nightbreak occurred to me when I realized, quite unconsciously, that I had assembled and recorded a number of works that vividly display the light and darkness of the human soul. From the dramatic sound-portraits of Franz Liszt's powerful and moving Vallee d'Obermann and Brahms anguished "Edward" Ballade to Philip Glass's brilliant and thrilling "Dracula Suite", these works capture a panoramic range of human feelings and emotions. The shifting shadows of the mind and spirit are also revealed in the poetic nocturnes and waltzes by Liszt, Brahms and Wolfgang Rihm, as well as Liszt's magnificent, impressionistic Les jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este, a tour de force of color and chiaroscuro in sound. Heard altogether, this collection reminded me of that moment when day meets night, when the spectrums of the sun and moon mingle together with a mysterious, nuanced and haunting palette, what I call "nightbreak". -Bruce Levingston
The written word has always played an important role in the creation of works of music, from the ancient writings of Plato, Aristotle and Sophocles, to Gogol, Baudelaire and Tolstoy, through modern writers and poets such as Frost, Eliot, Joyce, and Mann. The three works presented on this album were each inspired by a work of literature. Rather than depicting actual characters, each piece presents a state of mind and soul, a distilled essence of the feelings and emotions found in the original sources. The Schumann is, of course, one of the masterpieces of the piano repertoire; it's depth and beauty endless. It's inspiration came from the Romantic work of E.T. A. Hoffman. The Bielawa and Wuorinen works, both written by two of today's most distinguished and important composers, were inspired by works of Rainer Maria Rilke and Salman Rushdie. These three works, like their creators and muses, could not be more different in compositional style and techniques. Yet, for all of their differences, outwardly as well as inwardly, they seem to share a spiritual unity. Perhaps the basic humanity that is central to each piece somehow joins them musically and artistically. In any case, their beauty, vision and eloquence speak for themselves.
In 2006, Orange Mountain Music released Bruce Levingston's CD "Portraits" featuring the world premiere recording of Philip Glass's A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close originally commissioned by Premiere Commission, Inc. The recording, which includes Glass's musical forebears Messiaen, Ravel and Satie, received international critical acclaim.