Citizen (2019)

Little, Chopin, Still, Gasser, Gross, Walden, Traditional

Bruce Levingston

The genesis of this recording was an invitation to perform for the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, an event which inspired me to meditate on the complex history of my birthplace, Mississippi.

A storied, culturally-rich state, it has produced some of our country’s most important artists – including William Faulkner, B.B. King, Leontyne Price, and Eudora Welty – but is also a place that has witnessed notably difficult struggles with race, poverty, and equality. The scars are painful and deep. Here, among our colleges, churches, cotton fields and battlefields, contradictions abound. These disparate, but related, elements have long absorbed and confounded artists born in this mystical place.

In recent years, I have come to see that my beloved state only reveals more intensely what exists in other places in our world: the struggle for people to come to terms with one another’s histories and differences.

In this time of turmoil between peoples and nations, focused on issues of citizenship and patriotism, we continue this struggle. I chose to name this album “Citizen,” not only because it contains works that reflect upon actual citizenship and human rights, but also to highlight that we are all citizens of one earth, and in order to survive, we must find ways to respect one another’s differences, and strongly uphold each other’s right to exist with dignity and freedom.

On this recording, I have gathered together works by composers who have contemplated these issues deeply. The voices of these artists plead for civility, humanity, and love, and each brings a sense of immediacy to the cause – offering not a clenched fist, but an open hand that reaches out with a welcoming embrace.

— BRUCE LEVINGSTON

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Bruce Levingston

Bruce Levingston is a concert pianist and one of the country’s leading figures in contemporary classical music. He is known for his “extraordinary gifts as a colorist and a performer who can hold attention rapt with the softest playing” (MusicWeb International). Many of the world’s most important composers have written works for him, and his Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center world premiere performances have won notable critical acclaim. The New York Times has praised his “mastery of color and nuance" and called him one of “today’s most adventurous musicians”. The New Yorker has called him “a force for new music” and “a poetic pianist with a gift for inventive — and glamorous — programming.” Levingston has appeared in concerts and music festivals throughout the world. His performances have been broadcast internationally on radio, internet and television. Noted for his creative programming, he has worked with some of the most gifted artists of our time, including painter Chuck Close, composer Philip Glass, authors George Plimpton and Michael Cunningham, actor Ethan Hawke, dancers Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, Colin and Eric Jacobsen and the Brooklyn Rider, and choreographers Jorma Elo, Russell Maliphant and Alexei Ratmansky. Levingston is the founder and artistic director of the music foundation, Premiere Commission, Inc., which has commissioned and premiered over 50 new works. Levingston has collaborated with numerous prominent cultural institutions on programs related to art and music including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of Art; Alliance Française/French Institute; The Aspen Institute and Aspen Music Festival; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. In 2015, Levingston’s new biography about the painter Marie Hull, Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull, was published on the 125th Anniversary of the famed Mississippi artist’s birth. Levingston also curated two major exhibitions of Hull’s work at the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans in conjunction with the publication of the book. Long interested in human rights and education, Levingston gave a special premiere performance for the opening of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and collaborated on the commission and world premiere of the oratorio, Repast, which was based on the life of the civil rights figure Booker Wright. Levingston regularly performs and conducts master classes in public schools to promote the arts and bring live music to young audiences. He was awarded the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Levingston is the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist in Residence and Holder of the L. G. Fant Chair at the University of Mississippi. He resides in Oxford, MS and New York City.

photo: from booklet Glass - Dreaming Awake

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Citizen (2019)

Little, Chopin, Still, Gasser, Gross, Walden, Traditional

Bruce Levingston

    National Sawdust Log

It feels significant that pianist Bruce Levingston titled his latest album Citizen in the singular, and not the plural. The recording was born out of a concert Levingston was invited to perform at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and it includes the work of four living U.S. composers, an evocative ballade by William Grant Still, and three mazurkas by Frederic Chopin. While all of the works grapple to some degree with issues of citizenship, most feel more concerned with individual, personal stories of belonging than with the large-scale distribution of civic privileges and responsibilities. C. Price Walden’s Sacred Spaces is a beatific paean to the powerful affirmation that a sense of belonging can bring. Walden writes eloquently in his liner notes about finding safe haven in churches as a gay Christian living and working in Mississippi, and his music is shot through with a potent, fragile relief. A crystalline edifice etched in painful light, Walden’s work is easily the brightest on the album—which is not to say it’s free of strife. The intensity of its devotion is heightened by its unspoken awareness that islands of safety are the exception, not the rule, and that we pray for peace because we spend so much of our lives at war. Walden’s work feels like a delicate, luminous echo of Nolan Gasser’s American Citizen, which opens the album. American Citizen is a musical evocation of Marie Atkinson Hull’s 1936 oil portrait of John Wesley Washington, a Mississippi man born into slavery in 1847. Levingston’s playing is lithe and full-voiced throughout. He has an admirable ability to preserve the clarity of each strand in a densely woven contrapuntal texture, crafting a compelling whole without obscuring its parts. His phrasing is subtle, nuanced shadings of tone playing against each other to illuminate the underlying musical structure. There are relatively few rhythmically propulsive passages on this album, and the general atmosphere of weighty contemplation grows a little stale when you listen through without pause, but Levingston’s expert control keeps the experience from getting too bogged down. Citizen adds to a much-needed conversation, but much more work remains to be done.

Brun Solomon[read full review]

Citizen (2019)

Little, Chopin, Still, Gasser, Gross, Walden, Traditional

Bruce Levingston

Digital Converters: Merging Technologies Horus (recording), Hapi (mastering)
Mastering Engineer: Daniel Shores
Mastering Room: Legacy Audio Loudspeakers
Piano: Steinway Model D #590904 (New York)
Piano Technician: John Veitch
Producer: Dan Merceruio
Recording Engineer: Daniel Shores
Recording location: Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia, May 14-16, 201
Recording Software: Pyramix
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DXD

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DSL92228: Citizen
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Tracks.
1.
American Citizen
Gasser
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2.
3 Visions - No. 2, Summerland
Still
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3.
Mazurka in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 6 No. 2
Chopin
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4.
Mazurka in C Major, Op. 24 No. 2
Chopin
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5.
Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17 No. 4
Chopin
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6.
Accumulation of Purpose - I. Reveille
Little
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7.
Accumulation of Purpose - II. Ride
Little
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8.
Accumulation of Purpose - III. Reveille
Little
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9.
Accumulation of Purpose - IV. Accumulation of Purpose
Little
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10.
Accumulation of Purpose - V. Reveille
Little
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11.
Accumulation of Purpose - VI. Nocturne
Little
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12.
3 Pieces 'Locations in Time' - No. 1, Other
Gross
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13.
3 Pieces 'Locations in Time' - No. 2, Elegy
Gross
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14.
3 Pieces 'Locations in Time' - No. 3, Toward Night
Gross
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15.
Sacred Spaces - I. Prelude & Chaconne
Walden
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16.
Sacred Spaces - II. Hymn (This World Is My Home)
Walden
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17.
Amazing Grace (Arr. C. Price Walden for Piano)
Traditional
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