DAN LOCKLAIR: Reynolda Reflections; In the Almost Evening; Music of Quince; …the moon commands…; Dream Steps; Constellations – var. performers – Albany

by | Sep 11, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

DAN LOCKLAIR: Reynolda Reflections; In the Almost Evening; Music of Quince; …the moon commands…; Dream Steps; Constellations – Melissa Suhr, Anna Ludwig Wilson, Klaus Liebetanz, flute/ Steve Estes, cello/ Craig Rine, Kelly Burke, clarinet/ Jancanne Houston, soprano/ Hsiao-Mei Ku, violin/ Jonathan Bagg, viola/ Jacquelyn Bartlett, harp/ David Robbins, percussion/ Robert Brewer, Robert Jorgensen, Thomas Warburton, piano/ George Ritchie, organ – Albany TROY701/2 (2 discs), 57:38 & 49:15 ****1/2:

Dan Locklair is currently Composer-in-Residence and Professor of Music at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem North Carolina. A native of Charlotte (born 1949), his is a name that I have come across before but have never actually heard any of his music. This is definitely to my detriment. This album came to me with the words “delightful” written across the back, presumably by our intrepid editor, but I must admit that the first five tracks, comprising the suite for flute, cello, and piano known as Reynolda Reflections had me thinking otherwise. The “Reynolda” part triggered memory associations for me, being a good North Carolina boy myself, and understanding that a vast portion of the state’s cultural riches came from big tobacco in general, and R.J. Reynolds in particular—in this case the collection from Reynolda House in the Museum of American Art also located in Winston-Salem. This is by far the latest work completed by the composer presented on this disc (2000), and I found it the least interesting. Locklair is a composer who takes intense cues for his musical expression from visual and literacy sources, and every piece here is based on one or the other. In this case, there are five paintings (three shown considerately in the booklet) that serve as inspiration. But the piece in general is more linear and ascetic than the others on this disc, and not as interesting.

This is not to say that Reynolda Reflections is without value; indeed, had it been placed in the middle of the program my own first impressions might have been different. But the other works here seem a cut above, even though a few are 15 to almost 20 years earlier. Locklair locked in on a style fairly early in his career. You cannot for one minute call it “impressionistic”, at least not in the manner that the word conjures up you-know-who, but “descriptive” would be quite apt. Locklair’s music tells stories; the narrative is easy to follow, and the moods he creates range from tender to tendentious, bittersweet to phlegmatic in its stoic mood-musings, especially found in his harmonies and repetitive rhythmic patterns.

His uses some jazz influences, but only as a taste, and the music for the most part is refreshingly tonal, without trying to make points about its tonality. There are many riches to be mined on these discs, but I found the second one, starting with …the moon commands… for flute (he loves the flute), soprano, percussion, and piano to be the most rewarding. In this work he uses an almost George Crumb-like sonority in places without Crumb’s esoteric flavoring that sometimes removes his music from the immediately comprehensible (though I am a Crumb-lover). The two greatest works here are the 1993 Dream Steps for flute, viola, and harp (shades of Arnold Bax) and the earlier 1980 Constellations, a concerto for organ and percussion that ends the disc with a bang.

The performances are all fine, done mainly by what we might call second-tier academic performers, but don’t let that label fool you, as they are all very professional. The recordings come from a variety of sources, brought together by Albany into this one place, and the sound, though very good and solidly DDD, still retains an analog ambiance about it (something many people start salivating over). I enjoyed this release tremendously, and count it as one of the best contemporary chamber discs of the year. Now I need to seek out some of Locklair’s orchestral music.

— Steven Ritter    

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