Lowell Liebermann is one of America's most frequently performed and commissioned composers. Described by the New York Times as "as much of a traditionalist as an innovator," Mr. Liebermann's music is known for its technical command and audience appeal. Multiple recordings of many of his works attest to the enthusiasm shared by performers and listeners for his music: the Sonata for Flute and Piano has been recorded sixteen times to date; the Gargoyles for piano eleven times; and the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra is available on four different releases.
Mr. Liebermann's second full-length opera, Miss Lonelyhearts, set to a libretto by J.D. McClatchy after the novel by Nathanael West, was premiered in April, 2006 at Lincoln Center’s Juilliard Theatre, under the baton of Andreas Delfs. The opera was commissioned by the Juilliard School to celebrate its 100th Anniversary. A reduced orchestration version of Mr. Liebermann’s first opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was premiered to great critical and popular acclaim by Center City Opera Theater at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in June, 2007. Piano Concerto No. 3 was commissioned for pianist Jeffrey Biegel by a consortium of eighteen American and international orchestras, and received its premiere in May, 2006 with the Milwaukee Symphony conducted by Andreas Delfs. And in September of that year, the chamber ensemble Concertante premiered the Chamber Concerto No. 2, Op. 98 for Violin and String Quartet (which it also commissioned from Mr. Liebermann) with violinist Xiao-Dong Wang.
Recent seasons have seen the premieres of many other major Liebermann compositions. His Concerto for Orchestra was commissioned and premiered by the Toledo Symphony under the direction of Grant Llewellyn, and later recorded by Llewellyn with the BBC Symphony for CD release. Stephen Hough and the Indianapolis Symphony performed Liebermann's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which the orchestra commissioned to celebrate Raymond Leppard's farewell concert as conductor. Charles Dutoit and the Tokyo NHK Symphony gave the world premiere of Variations on a Theme of Mozart, commissioned to mark the orchestra's seventy-fifth anniversary, and also recorded by the BBC Symphony. The New York Philharmonic and principal trumpet Philip Smith presented the premiere of Mr. Liebermann's Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, which the Wall Street Journal described as "balancing bravura and a wealth of attractive musical ideas to create a score that invites repeated listening. [Liebermann] is a masterful orchestrator, and just from this standpoint the opening of the new concerto is immediately arresting," also noting that the "rousing conclusion brought down the house."
In 2001, Mr. Liebermann was awarded the first American Composers' Invitational Award by the 11th Van Cliburn Competition after the majority of finalists chose to perform his Three Impromptus, which were selected from works submitted by forty-two contemporary composers. In an interview with newscaster Sam Donaldson, Van Cliburn himself described Mr. Liebermann as "a wonderful pianist and a fabulous composer." Mr. Liebermann's Symphony No. 2 was premiered in February, 2000 by the Dallas Symphony and Chorus, under the direction of Andrew Litton. TIME magazine wrote, "now brazen and glittering, now radiantly visionary, the Liebermann Second, a resplendent choral symphony, is the work of a composer unafraid of grand gestures and openhearted lyricism." Maestro Litton and the DSO recorded the symphony and the Liebermann Concerto for Flute and Orchestra on the Delos label, with Eugenia Zukerman as soloist. In February, 2001, the Dallas Symphony gave the New York premiere of Mr. Liebermann's Piano Concerto No. 2 at Carnegie Hall, with Stephen Hough as soloist. Stephen Wigler of the Baltimore Sun found the concerto to be "perhaps the best piece in the genre since Samuel Barber's concerto." John Ardoin, of the Dallas Morning News, described the work as "more than a knockout; it is among the best works of its kind in this century." Stephen Hough's recording of the concerto – conducted by the composer – received a 1998 Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
In May, 1996, Mr. Liebermann's opera based on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was premiered at L'Opéra de Monte-Carlo to great popular and critical acclaim. This commission was the first by an American composer in the company's history. After the opera's American premiere in February, 1999 at Milwaukee's Florentine Opera, the New York Times commented, "musically and dramatically, Mr. Liebermann's work is effective; as a first opera, it is remarkable."
James Galway has commissioned three works from Mr. Liebermann: the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, the Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, and Trio No. 1 for Flute, Cello and Piano. Mr. Galway premiered the Flute Concerto in 1992 with the St. Louis Symphony and the double concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1995. That same year, Mr. Galway performed the Flute Concerto with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Galway recorded both works, along with Mr. Liebermann's Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra, for BMG, with Mr. Liebermann conducting.
Mr. Liebermann acted as Composer-in-Residence for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra until 2002. He filled the same role for Sapporo's Pacific Music Festival and for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. His tenure in Saratoga led to the commission of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, which was premiered by Chantal Juillet and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Charles Dutoit.
Recent recording releases on the KOCH and Arabesque labels include Mr. Liebermann's complete piano music performed by David Korevaar, his complete chamber music for flute, and the complete songs for tenor and piano with the voice of Robert White, and Mr. Liebermann at the piano. Additional recordings of Mr. Liebermann's music are available on Hyperion, Virgin Classics, Albany, New World Records, Centaur, Cambria, Musical Heritage Society, Intim Musik, Opus One and others.
Orchestras worldwide have performed Mr. Liebermann's works, including the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, l'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Tokyo NHK Symphony, l'Orchestre National de France, and the symphonies of Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Minnesota. Among the artists who have performed Liebermann's works are James Galway, Charles Dutoit, Stephen Hough, Jeffrey Biegel, Kurt Masur, Joshua Bell, Hans Vonk, Steven Isserlis, Andrew Litton, Susan Graham, David Zinman, Jesús López-Cobos, Paula Robison, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Steuart Bedford, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Mr. Liebermann maintains an active performing schedule as pianist and conductor. He has collaborated with such distinguished artists as flautists James Galway and Jeffrey Khaner, violinists Chantal Juillet and Eric Grossman, singers Robert White and Carole Farley and cellist Andrés Díaz. He performed the world premiere of Ned Rorem's Pas de Trois for Oboe, Violin and Piano at the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival. In 2002 he made his Berlin debut performing his Piano Quintet with members of the Berlin Philharmonic. On February 22, 2006, Mr. Liebermann's 45th birthday, the Van Cliburn Foundation presented a highly successful all-Liebermann concert as part of their "Modern at the Modern" series, with the composer at the piano and featuring the premiere of Liebermann's Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 90. Also in 2006, Mr. Liebermann was invited to perform the complete Mozart sonatas for violin and piano with violinist Eric Grossman at the Detroit Art Institute to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.
Lowell Liebermann was born in New York City in 1961. He began piano studies at the age of eight, and composition studies at fourteen. He made his performing debut two years later at Carnegie Recital Hall, playing his Piano Sonata, Op.1, which he composed when he was fifteen. He holds Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. Among his many awards is a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Theodore Presser Company is the exclusive publisher of Mr. Liebermann's music.
For more information, please visit www.lowellliebermann.com
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This interview was recorded in Chicago on August 15, 1998. Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1999, and on both WNUR and Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in 2009 . This transcription was made and posted on this website in 2009. It has also been included in the internet channel Classical Connect.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.