Tonight will be a broadcast of this season's performance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with pianist, Alexander Korsatia.
Solstice is the latest piece commissioned by the Houston Symphony for its principal players. Barnhill and the artistic staff chose McTee, a professor at the University of North Texas. She produced a three-movement piece teeming with a musical language that is distinctly and refreshingly American.
One principal McTee used in the work was the notion of stasis, a term from the sciences that, among other things, can describe a state where things are static or motionless, even if there seems to be a frenzy of activity on the surface. McTee used the idea in all three movements but many times, especially in the first, the result was distinctly similar to the vamping an accompanying ensemble uses for a soloist in popular music and jazz.
Many allusions to jazz dotted the work, products of a musical mind that has absorbed defining styles of American music and turned elements into its own, distinctive voice. Many times Barnhill's solo could be heard as the output of a master wailing away in free jazz. Lots of the chords in the middle movement were straight from the world of jazz ballads (though, again, McTee was exploring other technical elements of style).
Solstice was vibrant and high-charged in the outer movements (notwithstanding the stasis) and evocatively sober in the elegiac middle movement. The only thing I would have liked was an additional segment of music in the first movement to ratchet the tension and energy up even further before going, without pause, into the middle movement.
Barnhill played with masterful control. His tone was burnished, his legato a pleasure for its seamlessness, and the power and agility impressive.Here is a link to the entire review.