On today’s date in 2002, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Leonard Slatkin conducted the National Symphony in the premiere of a new symphony by the American composer Cindy McTee.
McTee subtitled her Symphony No. 1 “Ballet for Orchestra,” commenting: “Music is said to have come from dance— [And] the impulse to compose often begins as a rhythmical stirring and leads to a physical response—tensing muscles, gesturing with hands and arms, or quite literally, dancing… There is also much pleasure to be gained from observing the gestures of a conductor, or from seeing the coordinated bowing of the string sections within an orchestra. My ‘Ballet for Orchestra’ emerged out of a similar kinesthetic/emotional awareness and a renewed interest in dance music.”
Cindy McTee’s Symphony makes passing allusions to earlier works by Stravinsky, Ravel, Barber, and even Penderecki, tossing in some jazz and folk fiddling allusions for good measure. But Allan Kozinn, reviewing the new symphony for The New York Times, wrote: “Ms. McTee's sense of organization kept the work from becoming a pastiche: as diverse as its ideas were, they seemed to unfold naturally within an orchestral fabric that used the ensemble's full coloristic range.”