MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


George Frederick McKAY (1899-1970)
Epoch - An American Dance Symphony (I. Symbolic Portraits; II Pastoral; III. Westward; IV. Machine Age Blues) (1935) [62:52]
University of Kentucky Women's Choir
University of Kentucky Symphony/John Nardolillo
rec. Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall, Lexington, Kentucky, USA, 6-8 February 2007
Experience Classicsonline

George McKay’s Epoch is a symphony to be dance-interpreted rather than a symphony of dance vitality.

McKay’s natural lyrical inclination is given full rein here in a work that explores in philosophical numbers the essence of four American poets. This is the listener’s first impression in Symbolic Portraits which is laced with some tart dissonances that rise once to yelp and howl. This pepper adds savour to the cantabile flow of a movement that tracks the life and spirit of Edgar Allen Poe. The orchestration is lucid, adept and generally transparent. It carries the redolence of Ravel, Bax in his more transparent textures, Patrick Hadley and George Butterworth. Pastoral (Sidney Lanier) includes a women’s choir with the orchestra. Their vocalise contribution is balmy and has some kinship with the vocalise in Vaughan Williams’ Oxford Elegy. The music has a warm Palladian outdoor air that radiates contentment: clover, benevolent insect-hum, the sun, cooling shade and birdsong. It is not quite as saturated as Bax’s Spring Fire but it is in that vicinity. Westward! (Walt Whitman) includes statuesque brass writing that shouts epic resolve, gritty determination and frontier defiance with a moment of writing that recalls Roy Harris at 12:07. Then about 2:23 the toe-tapping rhythm of city life emerges but by no means soulless and still in touch with rustic idylls which continue to enwrap the composer at the slightest excuse. The prominent and affecting song of the cor anglais and the oboe momentarily suggests a link with Aranjuez but the impression comes and goes in an instant. Folk Dance at 13:28 suggests the composer was familiar with Petrushka as well as turkeys in the straw. Machine Age Blues (Carl Sandburg) is vehement, sometimes iron-clad mechanistic, with sirens and corrugated rattles, rivet guns and jack hammers. It is not as wild as Mossolov’s Steel Foundry nor as overpowering as Honegger’s Pacific 231 but it belongs to the same literature. It takes a while to get to The Blues (5:10) but when they come they are disconsolate and heart-weary. There are some jazzy ululations and Gershwin-like piano articulation at 8:22 but McKay keeps returning to his lyrical True North as we hear even in this last movement. A phalanx of saxophones ruffle the Charleston velvet at 10:23 onwards as a metropolitan futuristic world strikes a dissolute meld with Jazz. An unnervingly iterated siren wail leads to a closing roll of drums.

The progress of the music has to be followed across clear pauses as the composer moves from episode to episode within the movements. Structurally it could have done with more variation but that is to criticise it for staying true to a consistent mood. The symphony was originally a multi-media event – not quite in the Scriabin sense but certainly one in which dance, singing, music and spectacle played complementary parts. Even so the music can be appreciated in its own right as a series of poetic tableaux. As a work it is predominantly reflective and evocative rather than dramatic. It is a fascinatingly distinctive yet low key revival skilfully presented and yielding its rewards in intensely pensive currency.

Rob Barnett


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.