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Affirmations and Aspirations reviewed in MTA mag, The Studio

McEncroe's third CD Affirmations and Aspirations has received a glowing review in November's issue of 'The Studio' magazine. Here is the review in full.

Review by William Clark

Following on from the successful unique piano CD’s, the Wirripang label presents Australian composer Mark John McEncroe's CD release, Affirmations and Aspirations with the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Anthony Armore. Orchestrations are by Mark J Saliba. The CD commences with the Fanfare Suite. These four pieces are titled: 1) Hope and Optimism; 2) Honesty Sincerity and Integrity; 3) Confidence, Exuberance and Open Mindedness; and 4) Joy and Positivity. This is a substantial work of over forty minutes and the sonorous and melodic inventions are pleasing and evoke many thoughts and moods through the pieces.

The titles reflect an overall positive and celebration of life and the music conveys many of these themes. Mark John McEncroe states, "I wrote these four Fanfares after completing Symphonic Poem – A Celebration of the Natural World. I wanted to remind people of those human aspirations that seem to have been lost and no longer seem valued in the world we live in today".

The lyrical and effective use of the orchestra, particularly the fine brass section of the Janacek Philharmonic is at times, brilliant and very powerful. To have an Australian Composer featured by such an accomplished group is testament to the depth that our composers now reach. Further recordings have been planned, which is very heartening to know. The antiphonal effect in the third fanfare is a prime example of the excellent use of the brass elements of this fine orchestra. Juxtaposed with this is the opening of the fourth and final piece in the fanfares where a prominent use of percussion, again with the excellent brass players provides a majestic atmosphere. There is also a luscious warmth and depth to the string ensemble throughout the recording, which can be missing in many orchestras and is a good example to students of what can be achieved. The varied colours and timbre conveyed through this first work is a fine example of contemporary Australian music.

The Symphonic Poem – The Passing, immediately dissociates from the previous work through the use of woodwind to open the work. There is a distinct somber, melancholic mood being portrayed, and the use of a solo violin suggests even heart wrenching sadness. One of the goals as mentioned by the composer in the booklet accompanying the CD is that he aims to create an emotional response to his compositions. This is particularly evident in this second work.

The final work on this release is the Symphonic Poem – A Celebration of The Natural World starts in a subdued and introspective tone. Again, the superb orchestrations are an excellent example of how effect fine orchestrations can lift a work and present many sublime moments. Certainly this excellent work would be a perfect study in how a title of a work and the resultant music can evoke so many thoughts of the “natural world” while listening to this quite beautiful music. It is a fine example of music that is very easy to listen to, a pleasure even, allowing for students of all ages access to “modern” music.

This is highly recommended as an introduction to a composer, Mark John McEncroe, who is to offer great promise of more fine orchestral music to come.

Affirmations and Aspirations is released on the Wirripang label.

WIRR 063

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Review originally published in The Studio, the magazine of The Music Teachers' Association, November 2016

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