Peter Lieberson marked his sixtieth birthday on October 25. Given what this profoundly gifted composer has endured in recent months, he may not have wished for much in the way of celebration, but the occasion should not pass unnoticed. In a formidable catalogue of scores, a few favorites are the early Piano Concerto (No. 1), which fulfills in some way the wish that Stravinsky had written one more large-scale score along the lines of the Symphony in Three Movements; the rigorous, sensuous Drala, in which the composer really finds his own voice (alas, the DG recording is out of print); and, of course, the two recent song cycles, Rilke Songs and Neruda Songs, both written for the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. The good news is that a Nonesuch recording of Neruda will be released on Dec. 19. (I contributed to the liner notes, so I won't be writing about it.) On a personal note: in my article "Listen to This," I referred to a college teacher who described my end-of-term submission as a “most interesting and slightly peculiar sonatina.” This was then-Prof. Lieberson, in a generous mood. It was a harmony seminar, and I remember how he devoted one afternoon to the Adagietto of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, marveling at the sensuousness of that sonic gift from husband to wife. Neruda Songs casts a very similar spell. I am sure that everyone wishes Lieberson the best.
Photo: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson