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Cindy McTEE (b. 1953)
Circuits (1990) [5:24]
Symphony No. 1: Ballet for Orchestra (2002) [30:17]
Einstein's Dream (2004) [14:18]
Double Play (2010) [16:44]
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. live, Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, USA, 1-4 June 2010, 9-11 February 2012; 17-19 May 2012. DDD
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559765 [66:43]

I have to confess that until I received this CD for review that I had not heard of Cindy McTee. Reading about her made me intrigued to hear the music, particularly as her husband Leonard Slatkin, whom I much admire, conducts these performances.

Circuits with its references to kinetic energy is an energetic overture to this disc and is full of references to the hurly-burly we associate with modern America. It is forceful and to me conjures up the world of a busy city.

Symphony No. 1 begins with great force, making an immediate impact. There is a nervous anxiety apparent with an atmosphere of some foreboding. I was impressed by the symphonic structure and a full use of the orchestra that brings colour to her ideas. In the Adagio second movement I felt some similarities to Shostakovich as well as a sense of mourning for something lost. The massed strings play with great feeling and without any sentimentality. That Adagio is adapted from her Agnus Dei for organ in the wake of 9/11. Inspired by Ravel's La Valse, the third movement is a short but powerfully thought out "traditional" movement. The finale owes a debt to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with jazz influences and is touched with the same foreboding evident in the first movement. All in all an impressive piece, well executed.

Einstein's Dream expresses in musical terms the great mind of Einstein and his theories on such matters as quantum theory. There are lots of diverse sounds during the piece and one gets the idea of a dream. Interesting piece but I was less taken with it than the first two works. It would have benefited from separate tracks for the seven parts.

Double Play is divided into two movements of relatively equal length. With its reference to Ives' Unanswered Question the composer in Unquestioned Answer is exploring the idea of disparate musical elements coexisting and complementing each other. I think it works well. The second movement Tempus Fugit has quite a lot of clock references and is a bustling piece with ideas that are never overused.

This is a disc that certainly deserves the attention of anyone who is not hopelessly averse to modern works. The playing and recording are first rate. The stand-out for me was the Symphony but I found all the pieces well worth hearing. It will be interesting to hear more from Cindy McTee.

David R Dunsmore

Previous review: Rob Barnett






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