CD Review – Apophenia The Wind Band Music of Peter Meechan
In his expansive programme notes to this engaging release of music for brass and wind by Peter Meechan, Stephen Arthur Allen offers the view that the DNA of this composer’s voice ‘resides in his slow music’. In response, the composer has confessed to finding slow music very hard to write. Perhaps it is the element of struggle that produces such a powerful, yet understated impression when Dr. Meechan slows the pace down – that allied to some stunning performances from three brass artists on top form.
The music here spans five years from 2004 to ‘09 and includes two major works first heard in brass band versions, the dramatic interpretation of Macbeth and the visceral Trumpet Concerto Apophenia (literally – seeing patterns where none exist). Rex Richardson, for whom Apophenia was written, really ‘gets’ the driving energy of the opening movement. The spare, still centre of the concerto, with its suggestions of the blues, draws the listener in, while the sheer virtuosity of the uncomplicated finale takes your breath away. It will be fascinating to compare this performance with that of Jens Lindemann with Foden’s, to be released shortly from World of Brass.
David Thornton’s contribution, in total contrast, is a model of restraint. Dr. Meechan pares his music down to its Stravinskian essentials in the three Fields of Destruction, which is a musical plea for justice in a world plagued by political double standards. The ‘fields’ of the title are the poppy fields of Afghanistan. In just 125 bars, Meechan makes a powerful musical statement – bleak, yet not without hope and utterly compelling.
Equally powerful in its vision, symbolism and economy is Epitaph (for Hillsborough), for me the creative highlight of this release, while Becky Smith creates a haunting impression in the final track Elegie – beautifully realised. Macbeth takes on added dimensions of colour and expressivity in this wind orchestra version, and the lighter Chorlton Suite emphasises what a fine band the Kew Wind Orchestra under Spencer Down is. It is one of the finest amateur wind bands in the country, with a full rich sound.
The release is well recorded by KMJ Recordings and having the composer as producer adds an additional authenticity to the performances.