Artist: Bruce Levingston

Composers: Nolan Gasser, William Grant Still, Frederic Chopin, David T. Little, Augusta Gross, C. Price Walden

Format: 1 CD


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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 painful 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

Pianist Bruce Levingston is one of the country’s leading figures in contemporary classical music. He regularly appears in some of the world’s most prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Royal Opera House of London. Many of today’s most important composers have written music for him and his performances of their works have won notable critical acclaim. The New York Times has praised his “mastery of color and nuance” and The New Yorker has called him “a force for new music.” 

Levingston’s recordings have also garnered numerous accolades. His album Heavy Sleep was named one of the “Best Classical Recordings of the Year” by The New York Times. Gramophone has called his playing “masterly” and praised his “compelling, colourful pianism.” The American Record Guide called Levingston “a pianist’s pianist.” 

Levingston has collaborated with some of the most gifted artists of our time including composer Philip Glass, prima ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri, dancer Herman Cornejo, actor Ethan Hawke, composer/singer Lisa Bielawa, authors Michael Cunningham and George Plimpton, Colin Jacobsen and Eric Jacobsen and the Brooklyn Rider, and choreographers Jorma Elo and Russell Maliphant. He has also worked with numerous cultural institutions involving art, dance, film and music including American Ballet Theatre, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, Rooftop Films, SFMoMA, Rooftop Films, Alliance Française/ French Institute, Joyce Theater, the Aspen Institute and Aspen Music Festival. 

Levingston is founder and artistic director of the music foundation Premiere Commission, Inc., which has commissioned and premiered over sixty new works, and is the author of Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull, the comprehensive biography and survey of the work of the noted Southern painter.

Track List

Nolan Gasser
1 American Citizen

William Grant Still
2 Summerland

Frederic Chopin
Three Mazurkas

3 Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 6, No. 2
4 Mazurka in C major, Op. 24, No. 2
5 Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4

David T. Little
Accumulation of Purpose (Six Studies for Solo Piano)
6 Reveille (Movement I)
7 Ride (Movement II)
8 Reveille (Movement III)
9 Accumulation of Purpose (Movement IV)
10 Reveille (Movement V)
11 Nocturne (Movement VI)

Augusta Gross
Locations in Time (Three Pieces)
12 Other
13 Elegy
14 Toward Night

C. Price Walden
Sacred Spaces
15 Prelude and Chaconne
16 Hymn (This world is my home)

Arr. C. Price Walden
17 Amazing Grace

Total time: 71:14
Release date: January 25, 2019
UPC: 053479222824

Quotes & Reviews

Think of this collection as a warm embrace instead of a clenched fist. Or, if you're resistant to extra-musical narratives, just enjoy Levingston's nuanced playing of accessible stuff you probably won't have heard before.

…this latest collection from an impressively erudite musician is another keeper.

Bruce Levingston, The Arts Desk

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.

Brin Solomon, National Sawdust Log

…exquisite command of phrasing, tempo, and dynamics to produce seemingly definitive interpretations…nuanced performances of remarkable depth…

Ron Schepper, Textura

Citizen: Music of Civility
The mix of compositions both contemporary and Romantic, American and European, old and new featured in this recording is brilliantly played, amply justified, and insightfully annotated in straightforward prose by the ever questing Bruce Levingston, the artist/curator in this recording, whose idiomatically perfect reading of three Chopin mazurkas is given the same care by him as the lovely playing of William Grant Still’s elegantly bucolic Summerland.

This CD’s gathering of voices that celebrate the civility and brotherly love quintessential to what is American or more simply put, what it means to be a member of the human race, is a noble undertaking underpinned by the artistic excellence and commitment of its curator and pianist, Bruce Levingston, a notable artist who brings the album to an end with a profoundly touching Amazing Grace.

Rafael de Acha, Rafael’s Music Notes

The final tracks go to Price Walden whose Sacred Spaces is a profoundly moving remembrance of the countless churches where African-Americans gathered and contributed to their sense of community. His arrangement of Amazing Grace closes the recording. It’s a straightforward structure that uses some extraordinary harmonic transitions to make this iconic hymn even more meaningful in the context of the disc.

This recording by Bruce Levingston is far more than a simple CD. It’s a meditation on one of the central issues of our time and can only benefit from being heard and experienced in that way.

Alex Baran, The WholeNote

Levingston plays with a marvelous sense of pacing, emphasis, and balance. These renditions are full of thought; and, since he is completely beyond technique, he can express whatever he wants.

Todd Gorman, American Record Guide

Sonics ★★★★★
Music ★★★★★
Most of the music on this CD is slow, quiet, and spare, yet giving yourself over to it for even a portion of its 71-minute running time is profoundly cathartic. The piano recording has exceptional presence with an excellent sense of the instrument’s volume.

Andrew Quint, The Absolute Sound

Hi-Fi News Album Choice
As you might have realised from the context, the theme of the whole album is citizenship, the struggle to achieve it and the sense of belonging that results. Those threads are served beautifully by Levingston’s masterful playing, and realised by a gloriously open recording, especially in the DSD128 guise auditioned and tested here.

Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News

The performances by Levingston are thoroughly artistic in the interpretive manner of the best of the great pianists.

Grego Edwards, The Classical-Modern Music Review

...mastery of color and nuance...
— The New York Times
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.
— Brin Solomon, National Sawdust Log

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