Dan LOCKLAIR (b.1949)
Rubrics: a Liturgical Suite for organ (1988) [14:00]
Salem Sonata for organ (2003) [11:30]
The Aeolian Sonata for organ (2002) [14:34]
In Mystery and Wonder (The Casavant Diptych) (2003) [12:14]
PHOENIX Processional (solo organ version) (1979/1985/1996) [6:07]
Celebrations - Variations for organ (2003) [11:29]
Marilyn Keiser (organ)
rec. Casavant Frères Opus 3856 organ (2007), St Paul's Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, USA, 27-28 July 2009. DDD
LOFT RECORDINGS LRCD-1110 [69:55]
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 and 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.
Powerful and moving … thoughtful and rousing.