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The American composer Peter Boyer (b. 1970) is best-known for his "Ellis Island: The Dream of America" for actors and orchestra which celebrates the American immigrant experience. Ellis Island has become one of the most frequently performed works of American classical music. Naxos recorded the work as part of its "American Classics" series with Boyer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and a distinguished group of actors in the speaking roles. The recording was a Grammy nominee for best classical contemporary composition. Ellis Island: the Drea

Naxos has released a follow-up CD of Boyer's music with the composer conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Boyer wrote the highly informative program notes which state: "[the] five works included on this recording represent a cross-section of my orchestral music composed over a period of some 15 years, from one of my earliest commissions to my most recent." The CD includes two extended compositions together with three brief overtures. Boyer composes in a highly accessible, immediate style. His music is full of melody, liveliness, and optimism. Much of the music reflects Boyer's background in composing for film and for television. Boyer's conducting on the CD is enthusiastic, with a world-class orchestra playing superbly, and with good recorded sound.

The most ambitious and the most recent work on the CD is the three-movement, 24-minute Symphony No 1, composed in 2012 -- 2013 and dedicated to the memory of Leonard Bernstein. As Boyer's notes point out, this work lacks the programmatic character of most of his other music, leaving the composer free and with the challenge of developing his own musical thoughts. The work is imaginatively orchestrated with lyrical themes and pulsating rhythms. The first movement, marked, "Prelude" is based upon a spare modal theme which is repeated and varied throughout. An opening section in counterpoint leads to an intense march-like middle part, which in its turn becomes a quiet close. The second movement marked "Scherzo/Dance" begins with a jagged, rhythmic scherzo theme which, as the marking suggests, is followed immediately by a strongly rhythmic but dancelike theme. The scherzo and dance return after a quiet middle section of strings backing the clarinet and a murmuring oboe. The lengthy finale is, like the first movement, based upon a single theme which undergoes development and change. It begins with a flowing melody in the winds, broadens out and takes a more intense character before an extensive passage for strings and a triumphal conclusion. I enjoyed hearing this work and thought Boyer succeeded in creating a triumphal, unified and accessible American symphony.

The other extended work on this CD is the "Three Olympians" composed in 2000 for string orchestra. This 14 minute piece consists of three movements capturing the character of three Greek gods. The first and most varied movement develops the multi-faceted character of Apollo with the strings capturing both his power and his reason. The second movement, alternately silky and languorous and soaring captures in its slow lyricism Aphrodite, the goddess of love. With its brusque chords and furious driving rhythms, the third movement is a musical depiction of Ares, the god of war.

The three remaining works of the program are short, programmatic celebratory overtures. In fact, the earliest is titled, "Celebration Overture", which alternates slow and fast sections and often juxtaposes the brass against the strings. So too, the "Silver Fanfare" (2004), which opens the CD features a curtain-raising glittering brass fanfare over its brief 4 minute duration. "Festivities", a six minute work written in 2011 is also in fast-slow-fast form with a lilting oboe solo in the middle section contrasting with the brassy outer sections. These three pieces fit comfortably in a long line of short American concert pieces for both orchestra and band. They reminded me of the band music of another American composer, Ron Nelson. Nelson: Holidays and Epiphanies [IMPORT]

I enjoyed getting to know Peter Boyer's music in the "Ellis Island" CD and in this new CD. On this CD, I particularly liked the Symphony. I hope Boyer will further pursue challenging, substantial compositions such as the symphony and "Ellis Island". I wish to thank Naxos for sending me a copy of this new CD to hear and to review.

Total Time: 55:14

Robin Friedman
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on 29 September 2014
I have to admit that having listened to Peter Boyer's 1st Symphony many, many times since acquiring this CD, it is without doubt, one of the greatest symphonies ever written. An absolutely staggering masterpiece, played beautifully by the LPO under the composers direction. More please Peter, I can't wait. This is truly wonderful music.
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on 4 June 2014
A fun disc musically speaking, full of sparkle and interesting music by Peter Boyer. For some it may be reminiscent of film music, but it really is better than you may think. Top draw playing from the LPO even thought it has the "Abbey Road" sound?
Well worth having.
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