Composer William McClelland is a living voice in the New Music of today. According to the liner notes of the album at hand he has been acclaimed the world round as a distinct stylistic influence, or at least that is what is implied in the discussion. I am not one to gauge for the acclamation of the music world for I am not in the thick of it. But hearing the music at hand I can understand if he has a wide following today. So accordingly here we consider the McClelland set entitled Where the Shadow Glides, Songs, Solo Piano and Choral Works (Naxos 8.559906). The album notes underscore that the works performed in this album have in common a music born out of poetry.
And so on this extensive collection of world premiere recordings we experience it all in a variety of ways. In the choral works early poetic texts give us a special evocative assertion of time and place, while the “Five for Piano” come out of a reaction to as many poems. Then the songs peppered through the program each set particular poetic texts and show us how skilled McClelland is in his ability to carry the feeling of the poems into the musical expression of them He is very talented at such things and we experience the many stylistic ins and outs of the program with fascination and a respect for such a complete musical vision.
This music is not especially avant garde but more attuned in fact to the echoing of past tonalities and vernaculars, almost a comment on the folk-laced music of Copland without directly quoting but rather alluding to a particular strain of folkdom, perhaps. Yet the music itself presupposes generation of song, of local musics celebrated by large segments of the population, the music of some homeland not directly stated, as in a dream. And that stylistic re-collection-transformation covers multiple style subsets, in the end an authentic and creative re-appropriation of Modern and Contemporary Mainstream roots.
The New York Virtuoso Singers under Harold Rosenbaum deliver a marvelously unwavering set of performances of the highest caliber. Bravo.
If you sit back and ignore the expectations of what you think a composition should or must be, you are in the right frame to appreciate this cornucopia. Then like me, perhaps too you will feel the adventure of this skilled everything-goes expressivity. Kudos. Listen.