Peter Boyer is an American composer with a steadily increasing reputation. He is known primarily for his orchestral works, which have received over 300 performances, by more than 100 orchestras. In his notes he expresses his thanks for the opportunity to perform and record five of these in a day with the LPO at Abbey Road.
The main work here is Symphony No.1
commissioned and premiered by the Pasadena Orchestra two months before this recording. The work is dedicated to Leonard Bernstein and this is clearly music that would have appealed to the dedicatee. The first movement Prelude
which the composer states contains aspects of both arch form and variation form has one main theme which builds up during its relatively short duration. I was surprised to be reminded of the music of English composers like Vaughan Williams with its pastoral overtones. The second movement Scherzo
is very energetic whilst being strong on melody. It is much more “American” in its vibrancy and rhythm and is splendidly executed. The final Adagio
has an evocative melody that slowly builds up making full use of the different harmonic effects of the orchestra. This is wide-screen music to play at full volume and become immersed in; it has the strong feeling of being a theme to an epic film. The three movements are strong in intensity although I did wonder about the relevance of the title "Symphony"; no matter - I enjoyed the music and the performance.
, which commences the disk, was composed as the first movement of a six-movement work On Music’s Wings
. This was commissioned by the Pacific Symphony and its music director Carl St. Clair in celebration of that orchestra's 25th anniversary in 2004. It makes a lively opening without having the depth of the Symphony. Festivities
, here given its world premiere recording, was commissioned and first performed by conductor Gerard Schwarz and the Eastern Music Festival, in celebration of the Festival's fiftieth anniversary in 2011. The start is slightly ominous on the piano and even when it develops retains a wistful quality. Boyer certainly has an ear for melody and orchestration and this is a definite success.
The Conductors Institute at Bard College commissioned Three Olympians
for string orchestra in 2000. Greek gods of Olympus inspired the three movements: Apollo, Aphrodite and Ares. Apollo
is forceful while Aphrodite
is a more delicate piece with an overtone of sadness. Ares
is the God of War and is represented here by intimidating rhythms making full use of the LPO strings. Celebration Overture
was one of Boyer’s earliest commissions, composed in 1997 at the age of 27, for the inaugural season of the Henry Mancini Institute. This is very much as the title suggests, pleasant and vigorous, but certainly the least substantial work here. A filmic melody intersperses the lively rhythms showing, even at this stage, Boyer’s strengths.
I came to this disk knowing nothing about Peter Boyer and have greatly enjoyed the experience. Symphony No. 1
in particular strikes me as a fine Twenty-First century work. The playing and recording are first class and as is usual with Naxos there are excellent notes. More please.
David R Dunsmore