AllMusic Review: Symphony No. 2 “America” CD

American composer Dan Locklair teaches at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. His works, many of them choral or vocal, have been widely popular, and the commercial success of this Naxos-label selection of his music demonstrates the breadth of his appeal. The titular Symphony No. 2 (“America”) is an attractive, Coplandesque work ideally suited for summer symphony concerts, with the tune America the Beautiful effectively alluded to but not directly quoted, and there are two shorter, similarly festive orchestral works. Most distinctive is the Concerto for organ and orchestra of 2010. Locklair began his career as a church organist and has continued to perform on the instrument, winning a Composer of the Year award from the American Guild of Organists in 1996. It’s easy to hear why: his treatment of the organ in concerted textures is unique. Only rarely does he oppose the sounds of the organ and orchestra in the classical formation. Instead, he uses the organ’s wide variety of tone colors as a kind of extension of the orchestra, to delightful effect. Sample the slow movement, titled “Canto (to God and dog),” which is lyrical and almost psychedelic; the tonal palette of the concerto is wider than in the other works on the album. In the concerto’s finale, Locklair’s brasses come out, and the organ reaches full power. There’s nothing wrong with the organ at the Concert Hall of the Slovak Radio in Bratislava, played here by Peter Mikula, but the work is strong enough that one might hope to hear it played on one of the great organs of Europe or the U.S. The performances by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra under Kirk Trevor are very strong; Locklair, a university composer, is good at giving every instrumentalist a line, and the orchestral soloists never flag. The brass and percussion in the organ concerto finale are especially impressive. Recommended.