LOCKLAIR Symphony No 2
A native of North Carolina, Dan Locklair (b1949) celebrates his 70th birthday this year, and celebratory is the word that springs to mind throughout the four works on this disc. To varying degrees, they all share an occasional, celebratory quality and it is no surprise to learn from the composer’s booklet note that each was either commissioned for a specific occasion or – in the case of the ‘unabashedly’ patriotic Second Symphony (2015 16) – encapsulates the very essence of celebration.
Of course, writing a symphony marking three of the great American national holidays will inevitably invite comparisons with Charles Ives’s unnumbered symphony, Holidays. Locklair’s work is quite different in structure, having only three movements (‘Washington’s Birthday’ is omitted). The first, ‘Independence Day’ (‘The Fourth of July’ to you, me and Ives), is built on the tune Materna, better known as America the Beautiful. ‘Memorial Day’ is the modern name for Decoration Day and Locklair bases his central movement on the famous tune Taps, quoted prominently by Ives, also. However, where the older composer captured so beautifully a sense of nostalgia, Locklair’s music is syrupy and overdone, as in the overlong finale, ‘Thanksgiving Day’.
This mix of the expressively unconstrained and not knowing when to stop recurs in the Organ Concerto (2010), particularly in the central ‘Canto’, and the 2007 orchestral fantasia Phoenix. The latter had a complex and prolonged genesis starting in 1979 but the passage of time extended rather than refined the work. Most engaging of all is the ‘festive piece for orchestra’ Hail the Coming Day, a bright orchestral toccata after the manner of Harris, all the better for its brevity. The Slovak National Symphony Orchestra give good accounts of each piece (and themselves) and Naxos’s sound is more than serviceable.