This seems to be the sixth CD of Locklair's music to have been
published, although individual works of his have appeared on
numerous other releases on a number of labels. Two discs of
his orchestral music have been reviewed on MusicWeb International
in recent years, here
The CD opens as it ends, with superb music and musicianship.
The title of Rubrics: a Liturgical Suite comes from the
Common Book of Prayer, the service instructions (rubrics) of
which inspired Locklair when he was commissioned to write the
work in 1988. This is reported to be "one of the most frequently
played organ works by an American composer" - movements
were performed both at Ronald Reagan's funeral and Barack Obama's
inauguration. It is certainly an imaginative, striking work,
with a particularly breathtaking finale. Locklair's website
gives the timing as 11'00, so at 14'00, Keiser is presumably
taking this rather more slowly than Locklair envisaged. Unfortunately,
there is a noticeable technical 'blip' in the third movement.
The Salem Sonata was a private commission to celebrate
the restoration - reassembling, in fact - of a Moravian Church
organ originally built in Salem in 1800. The four short movements
all bear a Biblical subtitle, and all possess an appropriate
degree of dignity and pomp. Another wonderfully tuneful, memorable
work. Celebrations - Variations for Organ was inspired
by a phrase in the Book of Isaiah: "... thanksgiving, and
the voice of melody". The original theme itself does not
appear until near the end, when it bursts joyfully onto the
scene. A thoughtful and stirring piece, with a glorious ending
worthy of Widor, very beautifully played by Keiser.
Along with the Salem Sonata and Celebrations, In Mystery
and Wonder (The Casavant Diptych) was composed in
2003. It was a commission by the Canadian organ builders, Casavant
Frères, and according to Locklair's liner-notes, numerous first
performances of one or both movements of this work were given
around the world on the same November weekend in 2004. To allow
a wide range of organists to participate in the premiere, which
marked the 125th anniversary of Casavant, the first part of
the Diptych, an Aria, is relatively easy to play, with
the following Toccata being much more technically demanding.
Consequently, both sections may be performed separately. For
all its relative simplicity and serenity, the Aria, subtitled
'God Moves in a Mysterious Way ...', is a powerful, moving piece.
The Toccata, on the other hand, is a noisy, virtuosic scherzo,
aptly subtitled '...His Wonders to Perform'!
PHOENIX Processional dates back to 1996 as a stand-alone
organ piece, but it has another existence as part of a work
entitled PHOENIX Fanfare and Processional, which began
life in 1980 as a bare three-minute Fanfare for brass
sextet, and which in 1985 melded with the new Processional
for the amended forces of organ, brass quartet and percussion.
Locklair describes it as a popular recital and ceremonial piece,
and it is easy to hear why - though very simple, the Processional
is a rousing work.
The three-movement Aeolian Sonata is dedicated to the
spirit of Americans in the wake of '9/11'. It is uplifting and
magnificent, appropriately making use of the old Aeolian mode
and the notes A and E. The first movement, 'Aus tiefer Not',
is pretty much a relentless sequence of huge chords with some
melodic flourishes in between, ending with some window-rattling
ultra-deep sounds. The second movement, 'Shalom', is a fittingly
tranquil affair to follow. The final movement is a boisterous
toccata, entitled 'Laudate Dominum'. Locklair's website gives
the timing as 12'00, so at 14'34 Keiser is once again taking
this rather more slowly than Locklair intended. Nevertheless,
as elsewhere on this disc, Keiser's technique and insight are
beyond doubt. Unfortunately, the recording of the Sonata
is almost spoiled by a very obvious editing join half-way through
the second movement.
The CD case is made of card, with a standard plastic tray for
the disc. The booklet slides in between two layers of card,
the front cover itself, featuring Locklair in a typical pipe-in-mouth
pose, and the inside cover, showing a close-up of the organ
pipes against a stained-glass window. The booklet itself is
a paragon - full notes by Locklair on all the pieces, biographies
of composer and organist, a full-page colour photo of the organ
and the inside of the church, a description and full specification
of the organ, and technical data regarding equipment used for
the recording. Much thought has obviously gone into the recording
process, and the result is a first-class, very natural sound.
Dan Locklair has written a fair amount of organ music yet to
be recorded. On the evidence of this disc, a follow-up CD by
Loft Recordings would be doing lovers of sublime organ music
a good deed.