MARK JOHN MCENCROE (b.1947): Introspective Moments, Ripples on Still Water, The Calling, The Gargoyle Fountain, The Pendulum, Ghosts from the Past, Dancing in the Light, Shades of Autumn, A Fish with the Blues, A Lazy Summer’s Afternoon, Shadows in the Water, Andante moderato, Shadows of an Old Memory.
Catalogue Number: 10V052
Label: Navona Records
Description: What we said when welcoming the retired chef and highly motivated musical communicator's tone poems a year ago (10U064) applies equally to this new collection: "McEncroe is unrepentantly, even proudly (if a little defensively) conservative; he writes: 'I'm interested only in creating an emotional platform. ... I want people to think & feel about the subject matter in the title. ... strong melodic content is of extreme importance even if that puts me at risk of being old fashioned or being one stuck in the romantic era. I don't write to impress people only simply to make them feel something or reflect on their own lives.' These works succeed admirably in these aims, on their own terms; they ably illustrate the picturesque subject matter of their evocative titles. He is adept at coming up with lovely, memorable melodies which are then explored extensively in a variety of orchestral guises, whose timbral and dynamic contours and variations in accompaniment suggest a dramatic arc with little in the way of actual development. McEncroe is fond of bass lines used as varied grounds over which his melodies and harmonies progress in narrative fashion, somewhat in the manner of film music; several of the larger pieces are anchored in this way. A good deal of the success of the pieces is dependent on the skill and versatility of his collaborator; composer, arranger and orchestrator, fellow Australian Mark J Saliba, who adeptly fleshes out McEncroe's piano scores in idioms appropriate to the mood and message of the music." These orchestral impressions are the result of the composer looking back over 'a life well lived' and recording his recollections in evocative pieces which he describes as 'very personal'. The titles give some idea of what the pieces are "about" though in many cases this could be surmised from the nature of the music, as the composer clearly intends, though in others they seem more for the composer than the listener, as what, exactly, stirred his memory of 'The Pendulum' which ticks its stately way through the piece, or who the 'Ghosts from the past' (not threatening ones) are, or what happened at The Gargoyle Fountain, or what gave the Fish such an expressive, Gershwinesque case of the Blues (perhaps the expectation of being cooked in Mr McEncroe's restaurant? This in terms of wry wit is the highlight of the disc), are not descriptively spelt out. In many cases the memories and reflections begin in a mood of gentle, pastoral recollection, are enlivened by an episode of passion or a quickening of the pulse before fading back into sepia album-leaves, and in all cases they are happy, nostalgic, or wistful, sometimes tinged with regret or sadness, but emphatically not haunted by any personal demons. Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra; Anthony Armoré.