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Classical Music Review

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Musical Images for Piano
Reflections & Recollections
Vol. 4


Composer: Mark John McEncroe
Performed by: Van Anh Nguyen (piano)
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 14 January 2021

Navona Records bring us the fourth installment of Mark John McEncroe’s Reflections & Recollections series. While McEncroe often releases piano reductions of his larger scale pieces in an effort to make the most of each composition, the music featured on this album was crafted specifically for solo piano performance. As a retired chef, this Australian composer and classically-trained pianist is always thinking about his works in terms of ingredients; by carefully blending seemingly disparate “flavours,” he consistently concocts surprising and satisfying tonal creations...

It's weird how your state of mind can inform your point of view on music, and how you can completely change your viewpoint when you're in a different frame of mind. I was looking forward to reviewing this album, as I totally fell in love with Mark John McEncroe's work years ago (Dark Clouds in Life; Live in Ostrava; Musical Images for Chamber Orchestra - Vol 1 & 2; Musical Images for Piano; My Symphonic Poems).

The first time I listened to this new album I was doing another task that involved my full concentration and by the time the album had finished I realised that I hadn't once stopped and taken in any memorable moments. In fact, when comparing it to Vol 1 in the series, my first reaction was how it just felt that McEncroe was going through the motions - that his heart wasn't really in it. I didn't engage with this on an emotional level like his previous work.

But as I returned to it time and time again I soon started to appreciate the layers and the fact that these seemed to be more subtle compositions than his previous releases. This collection is far more grounded in reality. His previous work I loved for the pure fact he delivers painfully beautiful melancholic themes, wringing every ounce of emotion out of every second. This new album felt more like a classically trained composer tapping into the rich vein of the history of the genre. And while I really did enjoy it, I rather selfishly wished for more raw emotion and melancholy.

It's a beautiful album, packed full of wonderful pieces, it's just that I was hoping for a little more emotion.


Darren Rea

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