LOCKLAIR: Symphony of Seasons; Lairs of Soundings; Phoenix and Again; In Memory””H.H.L.; Harp Concerto. Janeanne Houston, soprano; Jacquelyn Bartlett, harp; Slovak Radio Symphony/Kirk Trevor. Naxos 8.559337. 75 minutes.
When Aaron Copland created the orchestral sound of America in Billy the Kid (1938) he triggered a musical movement that has yet to be exhausted. Elements of the sound remain in American orchestral music of otherwise wildly divergent styles, in film music, and even in popular music. So it is with the music of Dan Locklair.
Locklair’s music (at least in the compositions on this disc) moves among three distinctive modes of expression:
· Exuberant and joyful””marked by lively rhythms, open, fifth-based harmonies and ringing orchestration;
· Elegiac””darker harmonies, led by rich string sectional writing; and
· Muscular and rhetorical””phrases that build towards climaxes and resolution, with grand gestures.
In the symphonic works on the program, Locklear deploys these expressive modes in the service of the long-standing tradition of symphonic discourse. The Symphony of Seasons and the Harp Concerto are both solid and safe additions to the repertoire. The Concerto is not a virtuosic display piece, but rather an obbligato work in which the harp is a leading voice in the orchestral texture. Jacquelyn Bartlett gives an expressive performance of the solo part, which seems to be very well-written for the instrument.
The Symphony displays Locklair’s skill and manipulating his materials and the expressive modes as well as providing a showpiece for the orchestra. It would sound really well in performance.
Soprano Janeanne Houston shows remarkable range and musicality in Lairs of Soundings, a setting of three poems of Ursula K. LeGuin. Locklair’s settings of the texts are is clear and expressive.
The two shorter works on the disc, Phoenix and Again and In Memory””H.H.L fill the program out nicely. The Slovak Radio Symphony, under the baton of Kirk Trevor give a good accounting of themselves, and Naxos’ sound is clean and warm.