MARK JOHN MCENCROE (b.1947): Works for Piano - Images of Time Passed, Movements in the Night, Echoes from a Haunted Past, The Pendulum No. 2, Moving into the Light, A Celtic Pagan’s Pilgrimage, A Parting of Ways, Storm Clouds Approaching, Natalie’s Dilemma, Balmy Summer Nights.
Catalogue Number: 11W053
Label: Navona Records
Description: This disc collects together an appealing sample of McEncroe's attractive, tonal piano works. He writes all his music in piano score, apparently, so these are his first thoughts on the material, though many go on to be orchestrated in collaboration with composer, arranger and orchestrator and fellow Australian Mark J Saliba. Two pieces here, Movements In The Night and Echoes From A Haunted Past, can be heard in their full orchestral garb on 10U064. Hearing the piano works, it seems that the composer conceives of his pieces in terms of melody, in which he excels, and accompanies them with the implied harmonies; thus the pieces played on the piano immediately suggest the orchestration and inner voices they are destined to receive. The disc is accompanied by one of his by now familiar defensive footnotes, addressed to "those intent on minimalising my musical efforts ... ", in perhaps more defiant terms than previously. Perhaps a critic has stepped on his toes and this is the kind of garlic he wields to ward them off. He really doesn’t need to do this; he has a real gift for melody and character, and if his harmonies are borrowed lock, stock and barrel from the great Romantics, then what of it? Identifying McEncroe's influences - Satie here, Debussy there, Beethoven, a couple of film themes - is easy enough, but as he insists, beside the point. The pieces are attractive and warmly communicative on their own terms. Two especially emotionally resonant pieces here are related to Natalie's Theme from the orchestral disc 03V062. It turns out that Natalie is the composer’s daughter, who seems to have had some turbulence in her life, which is also part of the background to Echoes From A Haunted Past. The composer has described his pieces as "very personal", before, and it is this autobiographical element that lends these undemanding yet memorable pieces their poignancy. Van-Anh Nguyen (piano).