What the critics said about . . .
School of Velocity for piano
" Magic in transmuting exercise into poetry" Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, April 29, 1993
"(A) kinetic cocktail of huge hammer strokes, grand flourishes." Susan Larson, Boston Globe, March 20, 1999
"A highly impressive set of studies, packed with musical energy." Paul Griffiths, New York Times, March 30, 1999
Tesserae for viola and piano
"This clangorous, intense, obsessive number features spellbindingly colorful writing...Itís a set of variations and a riveting one at that, cast in a three-part configuration both lucidly delineated and highly effective." - David Cleary, The New Music Connoisseur, Fall/Winter 2003.
Clarion/Shadowing for clarinet, violin, and piano
"A canny husbanding of sonorous energy with powerful motoric impulses spelled by hypnotic calms, the entirety gratefully imagined for the instruments." Richard Buell, Boston Globe, November, 1992
"Easily the two most intellectually and emotionally satisfying pieces on the program." John Huxhold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May, 1996
Roulade for flute, harp, and string trio
"Arthur Levering's Roulade, with its keenly imagined, texture-as-phrase sonorities, and confident, not-to-be-meddled-with feeling for form, came as a godsend."
Richard Buell, Boston Globe, April 5, 1995
Cortege for brass quintet
"Smart, nifty, pointillist fun, and built like a steel trap besides." Richard Buell, Boston Globe, May 31, 1994
Still Raining, Still Dreaming for 6 players: flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, and cello
"Living young Americans . . . were represented by Arthur Levering's elegantly crafted Still Raining, Still Dreaming, the first performance of which gave you its chimey, childlike, motoric qualities, the second its purposeful, long-lined, songlike tone of voice." Richard Buell, Boston Globe, November 20, 1996
Twenty Ways Upon the Bells for 7 players: flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, piano/celesta, percussion, violin, viola, and cello
"A drop-dead gorgeous set of variations on a tune that recalls a peal of change-rung bells." Susan Larson, Boston Globe, November 1, 1994
Furies for 11 players: flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, piano, percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello, and contrabass
"...a refreshing island of pointilistic sparkle..." Allan Kozinn, New York Times, February 1, 2008
Catena for piano and chamber orchestra: 1120, 2110, celesta, piano, 2 percussion, and strings
"Striking aural effects . . . fascinating combinations of instrumental color." Ellen Pfeifer, Boston Globe, September 18, 2000
"Intensely driven . . . showing sonic kinship to the swirling, colorful oeuvre of Takemitsu and Boulez." David Cleary, 21st Century Music, December, 2000
Time's Arrow for orchestra: 2222, 2210, harp, piano, 2 percussion, and strings
"A cascade of fascinating ideas . . . Levering exults in syncopated figures, swirling gestures and bright sonic motion. Most impressive is the manner in which textures dissolve seamlessly into one another with almost cinematic ease. The work claims cataclysmic climaxes and delicate nuances applied with colorful economy. The interest never flags through the score's 15 minutes." Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 24, 1996
School of Velocity CRI CD 812
"Arthur Levering's CRI disc is a magnificent accomplishment: music of enormous clarity, harmonic focus, and rhythmic zest." Robert Carl, Fanfare (year's best list), November/December, 1999
"In a city replete with world-class composers, Levering ranks among the very best that Bostonor any other municipality, for that matterhas to offer. This CD is an excellent sampling of his work, an essential and highly recommended purchase." David Cleary, The New Music Connoiseur, June - November 1999
"This review gives me particular pleasure to write, as I have been aware of Arthur Levering's music for several years now, and welcome the opportunity to bring it to others' attention. Levering (b. 1953) is a composer based in the Boston area, and this is his debut CD, which features a series of brief but concentrated works which show off his strengths handsomely. Levering's music is not easy to classify (happily for him), but that does not mean one cannot describe it. Amongst its qualities are:
Clarity. The composer has a gift for writing music which is lean, to the point, and brilliantly scored. One hears every note in any texture, no matter how dense. While Levering is not afraid of repetition, neither does he use it in classic minimalist fashion. Rather, his ostinati become a sort of template on which he can work continuous variants which keep the music engaging. Though the music does not sound like Stravinsky on its surface, it shares a good deal with the master in its general approach to musical sound and sense.
Rhythmic interest. Levering is one of the few younger composers I know who is able to write truly convincing fast music: not just a quick tempo, but music which projects an authentic propulsion derived from real harmonic rhythm, as well as surface densities. The music dances.
Imaginative orchestration. This music often sounds as though it is being played by more instruments than are actually involved. This comes from both the composer's taste for brilliantly focussed timbres, and from his skill in breaking up individual instruments into sub-groups of sounds which can recombine in various ways. A perfect example is the opening of Clarion/Shadowing, wherewithin a trio of clarinet, violin, and pianothe piano's two hands play very different materials (with different dynamics and articulations), combining with the piercing interjections of the clarinet and the more subtle line of the pizzicato violin to create the illusion of a quartet.
Wit. The music has a genuine sense of play. Only Uncle Inferno, a hilarious three-movement work for piano six-hands (already a funny medium by itself), makes deliberate fun of itself through its variations on what the composer calls an "insipid tune." But all the pieces have a lightness of touch and a wry, sly tone.
Some readers may have noticed that I sometimes remark on the fact that many composers' albums seem to be collections of smaller works, most in single movements. I've also often noted that this sort of presentation is good for a "sampler," but still leaves room for deciding later whether or not the composer can (or even wants) to deal with larger forms and musical architectures. Levering's music is also similarly concentrated, but in this particular case, I am left less with the sense of what is not present than is usually the case. The reason is: all these pieces are so tightly constructed and concentrated in their materials that they leave an impression of greater breadth than mere timings would suggest. Nothing sounds "occasional" here.
All of these performances are excellent. Donald Berman, whose superb Ives recital I review elsewhere in this issue, handles the demanding etudes of School of Velocity brilliantly, as well as the piano part in every other work on the program except Roulade. Scott Wheeler (himself an accomplished composer and a former Fanfare reviewer) maintains a tight, precise grip on every note of the works he conducts, and his Dinosaur Annex Ensemble shows why it is one of the most prominent and enduring new music groups around. Wheeler has long been an advocate of Levering's, and this generosity has borne fruit in performances that are carefully considered and fluently rendered. This is the best debut album by an American composer I've heard this year." Robert Carl, Fanfare, July/August, 1999
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