About this Recording
8.559337 - LOCKLAIR: Symphony of Seasons / Harp Concerto / Lairs of Soundings
English 

Dan Locklair (b. 1949)
Symphony of Seasons • Lairs of Soundings
Phoenix and Again • In Memory – H.H.L. • Concerto for Harp and Orchestra

 

Symphony of Seasons

Symphony of Seasons (Symphony No. 1) was the result of an orchestral consortium commission by several American orchestras, led by the Louisville Orchestra (Uriel Segal, Music Director) in Louisville, Kentucky. Composed between July 2000 and January 2002, it was funded in part by the Copying Assistance Program of the American Music Center. Symphony of Seasons has as its extra-musical stimulus excerpts from extended poems from The Seasons, by the eighteenth-century British poet, James Thomson. Below, brief details about each movement follow the Thomson verse excerpts that inspired each of the four movements.

1. Autumn

CROWN'D with the Sickle, and the wheaten Sheaf,
While AUTUMN, nodding o'er the yellow Plain,
Comes jovial on; the Doric Reed once more,
Well pleas'd, I tune. What'er the wintry Frost
Nitrous prepar'd; the various-blossom'd Spring
Put in white Promise forth; and Summer-Suns
Concocted strong, rush boundless now to View,
Full, perfect all, and swell my glorious Theme…

Autumn begins with an exuberant brass and percussion fanfare, which soon leads to the first primary section of the movement. Like the fanfare, this section, marked Joyous, is highly rhythmic, and its melodic material is first introduced by the strings and woodwinds. Maintaining the rhythmic energy of the first section, the second primary section of the piece is soon introduced, with its melodic materials first introduced by the brass, accompanied by the horns, harp, piano and percussion. Introduced in this section, and freely quoted throughout the remainder of the movement, are variants of Martin Rinckart's seventeenth-century hymn tune, 'Nun danket alle Gott'. The Rinckart text originally paired with this tune, 'Now thank we all our God', was written during Germany's Thirty Years War and is still sung there on national occasions of rejoicing and thanksgiving. In America it is one of the most popular hymns of thanksgiving surrounding Thanksgiving Day, which occurs during the season of autumn. The remainder of this movement alternates and develops the ideas introduced in these two primary sections. The opening fanfare idea returns to bring the movement to a thrilling close.

2. Winter

SEE, WINTER comes, to rule the vary'd Year,
Sullen, and sad, with all his rising Train;
Vapours, and Clouds, and Storms. Be these my Theme,
These, that exalt the Soul to solemn Thought,
And heavenly Musing. Welcome, kindred Glooms!…

A dark and solemn recurring harmonic progression - a chaconne - is heard in the strings throughout Winter. The chaconne appears twelve times and is twelve measures in length, thus symbolizing the twelve months of the year. After the initial statement of the chaconne in the cellos and basses, the English horn enters with a melodic idea that develops throughout the movement. Winter finds its form in three words from the third line of Thomson's poem: Vapours, statements 1-3 and 11-12 of the chaconne; Clouds, statements 4-6 and 9-10 of the chaconne; and Storms the climactic 7-8 statements of the chaconne.

3. Spring

COME, gentle Spring, Etherial Mildness, come,
And from the Bosom of yon dropping Cloud,
While Music wakes around, veil'd in a Shower
Of shadowing Roses, on our Plains descend…

Spring seeks to capture the delight and spontaneity of spring. An irregular accompanimental idea opens the movement and soon becomes more regular as it underpins an idea reminiscent of both the traditional third movement classical "scherzo" and the untraditional (to classical/romantic symphonic movements) "waltz." Solo recitative-like woodwind colors first call forth the "gentle Spring" then develop, with a regular pulse of one, the main idea first brought forth by the woodwinds. Like a traditional scherzo movement, SPRING has a contrasting middle section. This middle section has the quality of a "pastorale", though instead of the traditional 6/8 meter, this section alternates 6/8 and 5/8 meters. After this section builds to a climax, the opening section returns in festive, whirling scherzo/waltz fashion to bring Spring to a close, perhaps symbolizing the fulfillment of Thomson's words: "While Music wakes around…".

4. Summer

FROM brightening Fields of Ether fair disclos'd,
Child of the Sun, refulgent SUMMER comes,
In pride of Youth, and felt thro'Nature's Depth:
He comes attended by the sultry Hours,
And ever-fanning Breezes, on his Way;
While, from his ardent Look, the turning SPRING
Averts her blushful Face; and Earth, and Skies,
All-smiling, to his hot Dominion leaves…

Subtitled Arias to Summer, Summer slowly unfolds in the lush warmth of muted strings as they introduce the primary material of the movement. Woodwinds soon enter as the intensity of the section builds. A fast, contrasting middle section – marked Very quick (and hinted at in the first section) – soon emerges. As a pre-existing melody appears in Autumn, so too, here, pre-existing material is used. Most significant to this middle section is the thirteenth-century rota, 'Sumer is icumen in'. A four-part canon (with two ostinato voices), 'Sumer is icumen in' was the most famous piece of secular music in thirteenth-century Europe. A second pre-existing melody, the refrain from American George Evans's 1902 popular song, 'In the Good Old Summertime', is heard as a counterpoint to 'Sumer is icumen in', first subtly stated in the high strings and, later, becoming more apparent. As both of these melodies continue to be heard, the strings brilliantly emerge to mark Summer's third and final section with a full statement of the original idea that opened the movement, eventually dissolving into a soft and rich ending suggesting "the sultry Hours."

 

Lairs of Soundings

Composed between February and May of 1982, Lairs of Soundings is scored for soprano and divided string orchestra. The size of the full string orchestra may vary widely and is left up to the conductor's discretion. Movements I and III are based on poems by Ursula K. Le Guin from her collection, Hard Words and other poems (1981, Harper & Row, Publishers) and are used with the kind permission of the poet and copyright holder, Ursula K. Le Guin. The poems are noted below.

The strings and soprano are treated differently in each movement. In Movement I, the strings act largely as an accompaniment to the soprano. In the textless movement II, the soprano, singing only vowel sounds, becomes part of the string ensemble as a wordless vocal instrument. (N.B. For movement II, the soprano may be placed centrally behind or between the divided orchestras so as to become a more integral part of the ensembles.) In movement III, dialogue between the divided ensembles and the soprano is an important structural element. When the soprano is singing in the final movement, it may be necessary for the conductor to reduce the size of the orchestras (especially in the case of a very large ensemble). Thus, when the word "concertino" appears, the string complement should be reduced. However, at the conductor's discretion, this direction may be ignored and balance achieved by further dynamic reduction.

I. Invocation

Give me back my language
let me speak the tongue you taught me.
I will lie the great lies in your honor,
praise you without naming you,
obey the laws of darkness and of metrics.
Only let me speak my language
in your praise, silence of the valleys,
north side of the rivers,
third face averted,
emptiness!
Let me speak the mother tongue
and I will sing so loudly
newlyweds and old women
will dance to my singing
and sheep will cease from cropping and machines
will gather round to listen
in cities fallen silent
as a ring of standing stones:
O let me sing the walls down, Mother!

III. Wordhoard

The dragon splays her belly on the gold,
Gross hoarder, hot-eyed miser,
Holding all the earth can give to hold,
And none the wiser.

Dumbness deadness darkness is your nest.
Brooding there, fierce booby,
No fire's enough, not even in your breast,
To hatch a ruby!

Why keep such glory in the glowering dark,
Pent and unspent in earth?
Give me one coin, one diamond-spark,
One kingdom's worth!

I will not give a single pearl, says she,
Stretching a switchblade leg.
The one I gave would prove to be
My own, my Egg.
So filch your treasures frightened and alone,
Pickpocket, miserable thief,
The anger opal and the honor stone,
The gold of grief,
The joy star and the emerald despair:
Take them up to glitter in the sun,
Bright and worthless: earthfast in my lair,
I keep that one.

(Both texts from Hardwords © 1981 by Ursula K. Le Guin. Published by Harper & Row.
Used and reprinted with the kind permission of the poet and copyright holder.)

 

Phoenix and Again

Phoenix and Again (An Overture for Full Orchestra) was commissioned by Wake Forest University in 1983 in celebration of the University's Sesquicentennial year and was composed during the late summer and early autumn of that year. It bears the following dedication: Dedicated to all, past and present, who have made Wake Forest University the institution of excellence that it is today. In one movement, this short overture is scored for a standard double-wind orchestra. The impetus for the piece was a Thuringian folk song that has long served as the Wake Forest Alma Mater. Motives derived from this tune are present throughout the composition and the entire folk song melody, in slightly varied fashion, is heard near the end of the piece. The world première of Phoenix and Again occurred on 29 January 1984 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was performed by the Winston- Salem Symphony Orchestra (Peter Perret, Music Director and Conductor).

 

In Memory – H.H.L.

In Memory – H.H.L., for string orchestra, was composed in late summer 2005 and bears the following dedication:

In loving memory of my mother,
Hester Helms Locklair (1918-2005)

The primary musical material for this short, single-movement elegiac composition comes from the plagal cadence (IV-I). Since this cadence is often associated with the close of hymns on the word "amen", it has often been referred to as "the amen cadence." The finality of the word "amen" (meaning "may it be so") to a prayer or a hymn that is a prayer, seemed to me a most appropriate symbol of musical remembrance for the finality of my mother's earthly life. Further, a church school teacher of two-year-old children for many years, Hester Locklair always taught her classes a simple pentatonic hymn, 'Jesus Loves Me'. Paying tribute to that, a brief quotation from that hymn (played pizzicato by the violas) is heard near the end of In Memory – H.H.L.

 

Concerto for Harp and Orchestra

Concerto for Harp and Orchestra was composed in the spring and summer of 2004. A consortium commission from a group of American orchestras, the force behind the project was the American harpist, Jacquelyn Bartlett. Her mother, Mary J. Bartlett (former harpist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra), provided the original financial impetus for the commission, and it is to this energetic and remarkable woman that this concerto is warmly dedicated.

In three movements, the concerto is scored for pairs of woodwinds, horns, trumpets, one timpani, two percussion players and strings. The slow and lyrical second movement, Variants, is the heart and soul of the concerto as its harmonic materials form the basis for the entire composition.

I. Dialogues (Heralding and Joyous) – Structurally influenced by sonata form, this movement is based on the Mixolydian mode (G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G, though transposed throughout). The distinctive flat-seven scale degree progression of the Mixolydian mode (G to A) is immediately heard in the first measure. This idea, as well as the relationship reflected by it, plays an important role in the movement. The harp immediately enters with heralding chords and is quickly answered by the orchestra as it develops the harmonic and open-fifth melodic idea first heard in the opening measure. Rhythmically cast in shifting asymmetric meters, this beginning section alternates and develops these initial ideas as the harmony constantly shifts throughout. Continuing this harmonic shift (though now metrically less irregular), a slower and expressive second section soon appears where the harp and orchestra develop in lyrical dialogue an expansive melody rooted in the first section. As the opening section is analogous to the "exposition" of sonata form, the next section (the middle section) is analogous to the "development" section. Yet, there is a twist. The traditional "exposition" section is usually relatively stable harmonically, yet the "development" section quite unstable. Here, though, these qualities are reversed, with the middle section being rooted in only one tonality: G Mixolydian. It is gently dance-like in quality and, with its five sections, has characteristics of rondo form (thereby foreshadowing the concerto's final movement). Analogous to the traditional "recapitulation" in sonata form, a variant of the opening "Heralding and Joyous" section returns to vibrantly close the movement.

II. Variants (Still and Gently Moving) – The harmonic basis for this movement and the entire concerto is a group of harmonies built on all twelve pitches of the chromatic scale: G, E, F, D, E-flat, C, A, F-sharp, B-flat, D-flat, C-flat, A-flat. Largely unrelated to each other in traditional harmony, this harmonic series develops its own logic throughout the movement and also provides melodic material for this and the other two movements of the piece. The movement opens with the orchestra stating a serene chordal statement of the harmonic series, which is soon followed by the rhapsodic entrance of the harp that begins to develop the original harmonic series. The remainder of the movement systematically develops this harmonic (chaconne-like) idea through harmonic shifts, omission of chords and overall serialization of the harmonic series. The Lydian (F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F – untransposed) and Dorian (D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D – untransposed) modes both play harmonic roles in this movement.

III. Contrasts (Very Quick and Vibrant) – This movement is inspired by the traditional five-part rondo form. The Lydian mode is central to the harmony of the opening, energetic section as the open fifth idea of the first movement is further developed here. A contrasting second section is typical of the traditional rondo, but here the contrast is enormous as the music shifts to a more lyrical nature, with slower tempo and a harmonic basis on the tonal Pentatonic scale. (This five-note scale is equivalent to the black notes on the piano and, here, is derived from the second movement's harmonic series). The first section of the movement briefly returns and is followed by a fourth section that further develops the contrasting, lyrical second idea. A rather brief harp cadenza soon emerges, which is then followed by a return and further development of the movement's opening Very Quick and Vibrant first section. Hints of the concerto's flat-seven idea from the first movement help in bringing the concerto to an energetic and festive conclusion.

Dan Locklair

 


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