ALBUM TITLE: McKay
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Suite on 16th Century Hymn Tunes; Sinfonietta No. 4; Song over the Great Plains
PERFORMER: Brian Reagin, National RSO of Ukraine, John McLaughlin
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559225
George Frederick McKay (1899-1970) was a much respected professor at the University of Washington in Seattle for more than 40 years. His Violin Concerto of 1940 is in a firmly Romantic idiom, with hints of Sibelius in violin musings over timpani rolls. The solo part seems well conceived for the instrument, and the orchestral writing is effective enough; but the melodies rarely go beyond the bounds of neatly regular phrasing, and the mildly syncopated finale is something of a letdown. The American soloist and conductor are persuasive advocates, though, and the Kiev orchestra contributes whole-heartedly.
For the rest, the 1962 Suite for double string orchestra on psalms by Louis Bourgeois comes across as a pious, long-winded equivalent of Warlock’s Capriol Suite. The Sinfonietta No. 4 of 1942 is rather less astringently modernist than the conductor’s booklet note suggests; indeed, its long central movement is an atmospheric outdoor scene based on a folk-like melody. The 1953 Song Over the Great Plains returns to the same mood, with an obbligato piano playing the song of the meadowlark. The recording occasionally sounds a little constricted. But overall this disc can be recommended to fans of the more conservative strand of American music. Anthony Burton