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Dan LOCKLAIR (b. 1949)
Symphony of Seasons (Symphony no.1) (2002) [31:06]
Lairs of Soundings (A Triptych for Soprano and String Orchestra) (1982) [10:58]
Phoenix and Again (An Overture for Full Orchestra) (1982) [5:51]
In Memory – H.H.L. (for String Orchestra) (2005) [5:16]
Concerto for Harp and Orchestra (2004) [22:03]
Janeanne Houston (soprano); Jacquelyn Bartlett (harp)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kirk Trevor
rec. 11-15 September 2006, Concert Hall of the Slovak Radio, Bratislava, Slovakia. DDD

Splendid work – rich and rewarding

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 but overlong.

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.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Gwyn Parry-Jones


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