Dan Locklair’s Symphony
of Seasons comes out of the starting
blocks as vibrantly and capriciously
as anything in Peggy Glanville-Hicks’s
life-enhancing Etruscan Concerto.
It positively bursts with colour and
open-air freedom. The orchestration
is big, rich, romantic and full of well-timed
percussion. In short it’s handled with
taste and a keen ear for texture – an
amalgam of Glanville-Hicks and balletic
Copland. There’s hymnal writing here
as well, exultant brass, urgency and
excitement. The second movement is a
recurring Chaconne, opening tersely
but widening and deepening stormily
– there’s skirl here and natural buffeting.
This is immediately contrasted with
a festive scherzo which itself presages
a verdant finale, Summer, which occupies
just a little of the opening’s vibrancy
but ends with contented generosity and
withdrawal in which Locklair puts Sumer
is icumen in to good use. A splendid
work – rich and rewarding.
Lairs of Soundings
(A Triptych for Soprano and String
Orchestra) was written twenty years
earlier and I found it less appealing.
Some of the writing is very testing;
the soprano soloist is rather squally
and her diction is not especially good.
The central movement is not sung to
a text, but to wordless vowels. It’s
noticeable that in the outer movements
her intonation wanders off beam.
The overture Phoenix
and Again (An Overture for Full Orchestra)
is a juicily celebratory work and
redresses the balance with its strong
brass and free play of winds and strings
and use of folk song; a lighthearted,
traditional sounding but well crafted
affair. In Memory – H.H.L is
an elegy written for the composer’s
mother. Let’s forget the well-meant
but wrong-headed reference to Barber’s
Adagio. This is instead a warmly
expressive and very attractive work
that shows once again how well Locklair
writes for strings.
We end with the Concerto
for Harp and Orchestra. It’s crafted
in three movements; the first sounding
not unlike the fresh air of the Symphony’s
first movement, the second decorated
with rippling arpeggios and solo wind
lines; and the finale which sounds rather
Irish, foot tapping, and terpsichorean.
The slow movement is especially attractive
The performances of
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra under
frequent Slovak and Czech visitor Kirk
Trevor are lean and incisive, maybe
lacking some tonal heft and the ultimate
in precision. Rehearsal time was probably
limited but the forces do very well
indeed and serve Locklair’s music sensitively.
see also review
by Gwyn Parry-Jones