- Circuits, for band
Cindy McTee: Symphony No. 1 - Ballet for Orchestra; Circuits; Einstein’s Dream; Double Playby Leonard Slatkin
Regarded as one of the most brilliant composers of her generation, Cindy McTee demonstrates her prodigious skills at orchestral writing in this 2013 Naxos release, recorded by Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. For the perpetual motion piece "Circuits" (1990), McTee uses timbres in a dynamic way, keeping tone colors cycling in constant rotation, almost in synchronization with the changes of rhythmic cells. Her "Symphony No. 1 (Ballet for Orchestra)" (2002) fuses the form of the modern symphony with the rhythmic propulsion of dance, and the combination is innovative and ingenious, especially in the powerful Introduction: On with the Dance. But McTee's cleverest stroke is the parodistic Waltz: Light Fantastic, where she evokes the ghosts of Mahler and Ravel with a sly sense of humor. "Einstein's Dream" (2004) is a meditation on space and time that blends the sonorities of strings, percussion, and electronics, and the merging of traditional and avant-garde styles suggests Albert Einstein's quest for a grand unified theory in physics. Finally, in "Double Play," McTee takes her inspiration from Charles Ives' "Unanswered Question" and Leonard Slatkin's "Fin" to create a diptych that eloquently summarizes her varied approaches to composition. These pieces are given exciting performances by Slatkin and the DSO, and McTee's kaleidoscopic music is given a marvelous presentation with deep and spacious sound.
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Performance CreditsLeonard Slatkin Primary Artist
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If you're not familiar with this talented American composer, this album provides a great introduction. The release opens with "Circuit," a five-minute work that generates high-energy action from start to finish. By contrast, "Einstein's Dream" is a slow-moving atmospheric work for orchestra and electronics. Conservatively atonal, its evolving soundscapes are quite appealing, and draw the listener into its world. "Double Play" was written for the Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit symphony Orchestra, and they perform it with confidence. The second movement is especially effective, bristling with jazzy, good-natured spirits. McTee's Symphony No. 1: Ballet for Orchestra is just that -- a work of symphonic proportions that practically begs to be choreographed. Each movement has a dramatic narrative to it and a pulse that keeps the music moving constantly forward. McTee's carefully crafted melodies make her music easily accessible without resorting to triteness or cliche. This is a substantial work that merits revisiting. Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra know this music well, and it shows. Ensemble playing is clean and precise, the narrative flow of the music is clear, and the blend between instruments and sections seamless.
I was not familiar with composer Cindy McTee until this release and I am glad to have made the musical acquaintance. McTee taught for many years at the University of North Texas and her music has been played by an impressive array of orchestras from Lyon to Tokyo to Los Angeles and many others. This exciting new recording with the Detroit Symphony and the incredible Leonard Slatkin shows why. This collection begins in attention getting fashion with McTee's jazz-tinged "Circuits" This fairly brief little showpiece was written for the Denton Chamber Orchestra and makes use of cells of 'riffs', basically, that give the work a very propulsive nature. McTee's "Symphony #1 - Ballet for Orchestra" is a very interesting work as well and serves as the centerpiece to this collection. This is a big, four movement work that follows a typical structure but is built from a very creative atypical premise. Each of the movements intends to evoke or channel a particular aspect of dance music. Each is also a development of one of the composer's other works or other dance-inspired master works, such as the composer's own "Agnus Dei" for organ (the Adagio) or Ravel's "La Valse" (the symphony's third movement, "Waltz") This is a very engaging work and makes for a solid addition to the contemporary symphony repertoire. The fourth work on this program is McTee's "Double Play", written for Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony. This is a clever two movement work played without pause and that 'interact' with each other. The opening "Unquestioned Answer" (a great title...) takes its cue from the Charles Ives inverse and, in fact, uses the trumpet call melody in reverse as the motive to this work. McTee comments that this piece - like many by Ives - uses the concept of opposites as its foundation (tonal:atonal, quiet:frantic, etc) The closing "Tempus Fugit" is a fascinating little examination of time passing that begins with clocks ticking asymmetrically and eventually catches up with itself in a fast paced conclusion. The most unusual work in this collection is "Einstein's Dream" for strings, percussion and computer-generated sounds. This work was written for the Dallas Symphony is built on seven different sections that all refer to the theories of Einstein (such as "Pondering the Behaviour of Light") The way he very 'modern' sound of the electronic music intersects with or interferes with an inserted Bach chorale - especially at the beginning of the work - makes for a very unsettling but quite interesting musical experience. Cindy McTee is a very unique compositional voice and one that I am glad to have discovered. Leonard Slatkin has a career long dedication to the work of American composers that must be admired and appreciated. His work has brought many up and coming - or lesser known - composers to our attention for nearly fifty years. Cindy McTee appears to be the latest important find for us all.