Elliott Miles McKinley composer
SOLI Chamber Ensemble
Stephanie Key clarinet; David Mollenauer cello; Ertan Torgul violin;
Carolyn True piano
Lubomír Havlák violin I; Libor Kaňka violin II; Zbyněk Paďourek viola;
Jitka Vlašánková cello
On his Navona release INFINITE LANDSCAPES, composer Elliott Miles McKinley presents Three Portraits and his String Quartet No. 7 – two adventurous works commissioned by renowned chamber ensembles.
Three Portraits was commissioned by the San Antonio Texas based SOLI Chamber Ensemble and is scored for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. In A July Watercolor (with high energy) McKinley weaves together two recurring ostinato themes, one ascending and one descending, as other instruments play trills and cluster chords. An August Watercolor (Reggae-Pop), arranged in a palindromic arch form, has a more pastiche style, with Ivesian treatments of pop-ballad and reggae styles. In A September Watercolor (Groove Variations) a lively electronic groove is played as the acoustic instruments seek to move away from a rhythmic stasis, before eventually exploding into an animated groove of their own. The piece ends with a playful Bartók pizzicato in the violin and cello.
McKinley’s six-movement String Quartet No. 7 was commissioned by the Martinů Quartet of the Czech Republic and written in memory of the quartet’s founding violist, Jan Jisa. This vibrant piece features a wide variety of ideas, including a fugue in Scherzo and Fugue and a propulsive jazzy section in Riding into the Sky. The work is anchored, however, by recurring chords of stacked perfect fifths, heard first as a distinctive motive in the expansive Cathedrals of Light and Shadow. In Three Vistas, an expressive quasi-recitative passage in the cello builds up to shimmering towers of stacked fifths. The “Cathedrals” motive returns in the final movement Coda: Toward An Endless Golden Sunset, leading to a passage marked enveloping twilight of golden-purple before fading away into the infinite landscape.