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  • McKay: Violin Concerto, 16th Century Hymn Tunes
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McKay: Violin Concerto, 16th Century Hymn Tunes

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Audio CD, January 18, 2005
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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 18, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • ASIN: B0006M4SVO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,116 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
This CD is the third in a series devoted to the music of George Frederick McKay (1899-1970) which certainly deserves whatever attention it is currently getting. One hopes that the years of neglect that this composer's music has experienced ­- largely because for most of his professional life he lived in the Pacific Northwest, far away from US classical music centers ­- are over. He is remembered with fondness, though, by citizens of Seattle, where his music has continued to be performed occasionally; by alumni of the University of Washington where he taught for many years; and by such students of his as the eminent current-day composer William Bolcom, who indeed was a major participant in the second CD in the series devoted to McKay's chamber music. One only wishes that another of his former students, Goddard Lieberson, who went on to become a huge influence in the classical music recording industry, had done something to preserve his music in recordings, but alas that didn't happen. This CD, the second to present orchestral music of McKay's conducted by John McLaughlin Williams, is a fine addition to the series. It comprises four very different works that, among other things, show the range that McKay had.

By far the most important work here is the Violin Concerto (1940) which is here played with real commitment, virtuosic precision and ravishing tone by Brian Reagin, a violinist new to me but one who bears watching. He is currently the concertmaster of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and was previously assistant concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The Concerto, in three movements in the usual fast-slow-fast arrangement, is played without pause. The first movement is dramatic and declamatory.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 22, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
With duration of 78 minutes, this album of McKay's middle period compositions, 1940 to 1962, presents his more vigorously classical works: a concerto, an orchestra suite, and a sinfonietta, plus a encore piece of high merit. As with the previous issue of this particular Naxos series, the National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under the baton of John McLauhlin Williams provides the performance. Compared in structure to Bruch's own violin concerto, this piece's first section is dramatic, followed by a slower contemplative movement, and ends with a fast, rhythmic dance. The lyrical phrases of Brian Reagin's violin are sumptious and the duet with a single flute has its charm. The hymns are those of Louis Bourgeois (c. 1510-1561), and McKay originally composed his pieces for organ. In the string version, they are pleasant and well-crafted but I find nothing special. They are slow and meditative and only with the fifth cortege does the suite become alive. The jagged energy that begins the three movement Sinfonietta No. 4 falls away to a middle pastoral of gentle themes and cloudlike moods; the work closes with light-hearted skipping and jumping, a joyful frolic...and did I heard Rocky and Bullwinkle? The final selection is Song Over the Great Plains, an atmospheric or poetic work with piano that speaks of open lands, climatic power, confidence, and endurance. The piano has the final word in a cadenza and fading pianissimo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alden Werkmeister on August 8, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Brian Reagin gives a brilliant premiere recording performance of George Frederick McKay's 1941 Violin Concerto, originally composed for Jascha Heifetz's Contest in New York. The concerto takes its inspiration from Sibelius and Tchaikovsky as told by McKay, who generally produced more modern sounding works during this period, but chose to compose a piece with much romantic feeling intact for the soloist to expand upon.

The Concerto also had a live performance with the Seattle Symphony led by Richard Hickox in 2001, with two concerts at Benaroya Hall, the soloist being Ilkka Talvi.
The Seattle Symphony initiated these concerts for McKay's 100th birthdate celebration, following concerts by University of Washington musicians on earlier dates.

In this recording McKay also demonstrates his genius in writing music for double string orchestra in the work "Suite on 16th Century Hymn Tunes" which is a tribute to Louis Bourgeois, based on ancient organ pieces. This composition expresses soaring spiritual feelings, as well as sprightly ancient melodies, and includes a movement devoted to the celeste as a main accompanying instrument.

"Sinfonietta No.4" by McKay is a completely original and vital work featuring romping fast movements reminding one of the energy of an avenue in a university town during the 1930's, contrasted by a middle pastorale movement which conjures up a wondrous and almost never-ending homage to the beauty of the Pacific Coast region of America, and the tradition of its native people.

"Song Over the Great Plains" presents the onset of Spring in the great open spaces of mid-America, complete with musical images of thunderstorms, wild bird songs, and the blossoming of flowers in desolate regions.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A well performed concerto that stands well with other better know concertos. It is hard to understand why you have to dig to find recordings of the many fine American composers.thank goodnes for Naxos!
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