CD Review / Classical Music

Peter Boyer – Symphony No 1

Wow. Just – wow.

In his latest recording, American composer, Peter Boyer, debuts his first ever symphony, Symphony No. 1, and what a gorgeous work of music it is!


Peter Boyer – Photo credit: Marisa Leigh

Conducting his own work with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (known for their soundtrack recordings such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter movies and Star Wars), Peter Boyer brings his first symphony to life by lifting up the listener with both emotion and excitement.

The album opens with new and fresh recordings of his pieces Festivities and, my personal favorite, Silver Fanfare – which I can easily picture being performed by a marching band or a drum and bugle corps. Though full orchestral pieces, these two compositions are all reminiscent of the music I most enjoyed performing when I played clarinet in a band. I think that may be because the percussion, brass and winds are featured so prominently within that they’re exciting and nostalgic all at once for me.

From there it moves on to a trio of songs named after Greek gods titled Three Olympians: Apollo, Aphrodite and Ares. These three make for some terrific music, but Ares – WHOA! It’ll blow you away within the first few notes. Talk about intense! Best track of the album. (Of course, I might have said that to myself about a few other tracks, too!)

Celebration Overture finishes out the new recordings with some incredible brass parts, but listen for the piano. It’s a great addition to this piece.

Peter Boyer - Abbey Road, London, June 17, 2013

Peter Boyer – Abbey Road, London, June 17, 2013 – Photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega

The main focus of this recording, the pièce de résistance as it were, is Boyer’s three-movement Symphony No. 1. It begins with the Prelude which eases the listener in with a  melody led by the strings yet slowly adds in more strings and brass on the bass lines to drive it up to such a level of intensity that you won’t know what hit you, but you won’t care because it sounds good. It levels out a bit prior to ending the movement, but it’s definitely not a mild intro.

From there, he moves on to the Scherzo / Dance movement which has a quick-moving, foot-tapping beat to it. Be warned, you may find yourself wanting to dance to this one!

The third movement, the Adagio, is definitely my favorite of the three. It’s filled with a gorgeous theme beautifully carried by the middle voices. It’s big. It’s emotional. It’s very moving.

Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and John Williams* are the three composers Boyer most admires and enjoys. In fact, this CD is dedicated to the memory of Bernstein. Their influence however is rather apparent in his Symphony No. 1. I could definitely hear Copland in the Prelude, Bernstein in the Scherzo and Williams in the Adagio. What a beautiful combination. A fan of all three composers, it’s no wonder I like Boyer’s music so much!

There’s a great behind-the-scenes video of this album that gives some background of the music written, but it also shows the composer conducting his own music and also provides a taste of the music inside.

I’m always hesitant when I first listen to music written by living composers, but this CD blew me away. Without a doubt, this is an excellent recording. A fantastic album, the praises for which are coming from this humble blogger who has consistently avoided any 20th/21st century music her entire life because she’s always incorrectly stereotyped it ALL as annoying, dissonant sound that just grates on one’s nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.

While sure, there is music like that, it is NOT found here. What’s here is beautiful.

This is music that will definitely appeal to both orchestra and band lovers alike. I can readily envision this music’s being played both in grand concert halls as well as on football fields. Maybe we can even convince the band department at my alma mater, Indiana University, to turn Festivities or Silver Fanfare into a main feature of one of the Marching Hundred’s halftime shows! Then maybe after the game, the symphonic band or orchestra can perform Boyer’s Symphony No. 1. Wouldn’t that be an incredible weekend for music?!

Shameless Marching Hundred plugs aside, this is a passionate and beautifully-written music album. Boyer’s first symphonic work is truly wonderful. This is music you’ll want to play again and again which I’m sure you’ll do while waiting for him to write his second symphony!

To delve further into composer Peter Boyer’s music, check out his official website or like him on Facebook.

* New to classical music and aren’t yet familiar with the music of Copland, Williams or Bernstein? Aaron Copland wrote Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man (Think CBS Sports), Bernstein wrote the music to the original musical West Side Story and Williams wrote every soundtrack to the movies made by either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg.

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