Records International Review: Symphony No.2 “America”

Description: Locklair’s conservative yet appealing idiom, an offshoot of the tonal American symphonic tradition, with an emphasis on the celebratory and uplifting, is shown to good advantage in these attractive works, as it was on 09J076 more than a decade ago. The symphony draws on melodies associated with three American holidays of historical significance – Independence Day (America the Beautiful), Memorial Day (Taps), and Thanksgiving (the Thanksgiving hymn ‘We Gather Together’) in a bold, colorful pageant celebrating our nation. The original version of PHOENIX was written for the re-opening of a renovated chapel and was written to evoke Renaissance brass antiphony, with exchanges between spatially positioned brass ensembles and the orchestra in the stirring outer processionals, which bracket a softer, meditative section. The Organ Concerto begins with the obligatory post-Poulenc opening organ fanfare with timpani, followed by stately chordal exchanges between organ and orchestra. This is supplanted by a lively dancing section, a chaconne in which the theme itself is varied in the central part, followed by a return of the grand opening material. According to Locklair, the slow movement celebrates God’s creation, especially in the form of a beloved canine companion of the composer’s, who died during the work’s composition, symbolized by the triad G-B-D, which permeates the whole work. The organ introduces a gentle, melodious theme, which is then paired with an 11th-century plainsong melody as the movement crescendoes to a grandly exultant climax before a final gentle statement of the main theme in a haze of string harmonics. The lively finale, Toccata, has a continuous rhythmic pulse and something of the circus about it, the solo instrument sometimes sounding like a fairground organ. The cadenza is for pedals alone (itself a good circus trick), leading to a final exuberant romp to the finish line. Hail the Coming Day is “A festive piece” in honor of the composer’s hometown of Winston-Salem, SC, in sections that variously evoke the Industrial Revolution and the hymns of early Protestant settlers. Peter Mikula (organ), Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Kirk Trevor, Michael Roháč.