January 1, 2003

Three Suites for Guitar

Composer/Soloist: Peter Scott Lewis Producer: Lapis Island Records: LIR001 © & ℗ 2003

Composer/Soloist: Peter Scott Lewis
Publishers: Theodore Presser and Lapis Island Press
Cover Photo: Rob de Jong; Back Photo: Patricia (Pien) Ris; Cover Design: Lucile Tenazas

Recording Engineer: Robert Shumaker, Saint Stevens Church, Belvedere, CA - October 3 and 9, 2000; Guitar: 1972 Paulino Bernibe

First Guitar Suite was completed in 1977, with a second version of Into a Clearing completed in 1989. I stand by both versions. The second version was recorded here. In addition, the first two movements were originally composed as part of The Northwest Show, multimedia play commissioned and premiered by Intiman Theater Company, in Seattle, in 1976, where I was Composer-in-Residence. The middle section of Mesolithic Dance (first movement) is based on three Northwest Indian melodies that I transcribed off a recording made in the 1920’s. The completed suite was premiered in December 1977, in La Conner, Washington, in a concert of my music organized by the renowned Northwest poet, Robert Sund. I was the soloist.

Second Guitar Suite was completed in 1979 and premiered that May, in San Francisco. I was again the soloist. I later added Epilogue in October of 2000 primarily because I thought it was compositionally essential for recording all three suites. Yet I found that it was also an important conclusion to the other three movements.

Third Guitar Suite was completed in August 2000. In composing it I naturally worked to create a composition that would explore the material presented, yet also create music that would be sympathetic to the other two suites, especially since I recorded all three suites soon afterwards.

Track List

I. Third Guitar Suite 18:40

1. Prelude 4:59
2. Morning Improv. 5:29
3. Pastorale 3:44
4. Finale 4:28

II. First Guitar Suite 14:07  

5. Mesolithic Dance 3:06
6. Rain Fantasy 3:13
7. Into a Clearing 5:33
8. Burlesque 2:15

III. Second Guitar Suite 13:31  

9. Prelude 2:48
10. Pastorale 3:58
11. Toccata 3:55
12. Epilogue 2:50

Total: 46:25  

Performer: Peter Scott Lewis, guitar


The music is all fresh and the playing superb.

The First Suite (1977) is the most melodic and direct. The Second Suite (1979, epilogue 2000) is more of the same, but not so tightly constructed. The Third Suite (2000), which opens the disc, is the thorniest, with the most abstract melodic material and asymmetrical rhythms. Yet you sense you are in on the composer's deepest thoughts.
- Stephanie von Buchau: Oakland Tribune (Syndicated to many papers): 9-24-04
These three guitar suites present a convincing fusion of many styles and attitudes—blues-inflected harmonies sit comfortably alongside diatonically oriented flamenco figurations; minimalism with the Classical languages of Sor and Carulli. There are also spiritually borrowed moments from such Latin American composers as Agustin Barrios-Mangoré and Carlos Guastavino, often leavened with quite natural jazz syncopations. That last element, however, is subsumed into contexts that bring Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin and solo cello to mind—works that were, in their time, inspired by the age-old impulses to sing and to dance.

Lewis’s guitar technique is utterly clean and precise. He has a fine understanding of his comparatively quiet instrument’s paradoxically awesome dynamic range. His chord voicings are organ-like, and his ability to float his often-austere melodies over large time stretches is satisfying.

The sound is state of the art.

In sum, if you are a guitar aficionado, this release is essential.

- William Zagorski, Fanfare Magazine


Vivid, Entrancing, and Remarkable:
Guitarists spend so much time alone that it is no wonder the music they play often expresses deep yearning for communication with the outside world. Peter Lewis’ three suites for guitar are personal and introspective ruminations that occasionally compel the listener to feel twinges of guilt for crashing the private party. But the pieces are also appealing and subtly coloured, so the guilt quickly morphs into appreciation.

Lewis composed the first two suites in the late 1970s, when he was under the influence of guitar masters and teachers Alirio Diaz and Carlos Barbosa-Lima. Even so, these pieces only momentarily bask in Spanish influences, instead embracing impressionistic harmonies, recitative-like phrases and borrowings from Northwest Indians. The Third Suites, written in 2000, isn’t light years away creatively from the earlier pieces, but its languished sighs, asymmetrical metres and motoric elements, complete with dashes of flamenco spices, are vivid and entrancing. Lewis’ music exudes songfulness, as when he tries for exuberance (as in the “Burlesque” movement of the first suite, which is based on a tritone), he sees the dark side of things.

The composer plays his own scores with all the urgency and commitment one would expect from a performer who knows the music from the inside out. There isn’t a wasted gesture or hesitant moment in these interpretations, a rather remarkable feat for an artist who hasn’t appeared in public since 1985. The intimate acoustics enhance Lewis’s restrained virtuosity.

-- Donald Rosenberg: Gramophone Magazine, London, England: December 2003
(Complete Special Feature Review)
Peter Lewis is featured here as the soloist in his own four-movement Three Suites, works that show off the formidable technique Lewis commands — his right hand is particularly amazing, capable of the most fleet-flowing repeated notes. Tuneful and highly rhythmic, the suites (especially the last one) have an improvisational feel, with repeated passages that alter slightly and gradually metamorphose into completely different material. The writing exploits the guitar's resources very stylishly.

- By Melinda Bargreen: Seattle Times
A wonderful CD. Exquisite!
- J.L. Bueno: La Otra Musica, FM80, Cadiz, Spain
The guitar suites are wonderfully haunting. I remember what Stravinsky said about the guitar: not small but as from far away. The music brings those distances home. I’ve listened to it over and over. Bravo!

- J.D. McClatchy, Renowned Poet, Critic, and Editor: The Yale Review