Review of Apophenia CD in “Winds” magazine

From Winds magazine:

Recorded in both the UK and USA this release is the first commercial recording dedicated to the music of Nuneaton born composer Peter Meechan, though he is nowfirmly established in Manchester writing extensively for brass and wind bands on a worldwide basis.

The opening title track, Apophenia, is athree movement trumpet tour de force delivered with style by an amazing Rex Richardson. I wonder how many players could handle this virtuoso work but at least on record that is not of concern.

I particularly enjoyed the Epitaph (for Hillsborough) which is a most touching elegy finishing as it does resplendent in ‘Eric Whitacre rain’, funereal bells and silence. The composer’s locale provides the impetus for Chorlton Suite – I never realised this area was the jazz centre of Manchester but here it is! I was fondly reminded of Malcolm Arnold though the dance is now that of a new generation bathed in John Adams’s developed minimalist style. The elegies of the second movement of Apophenia and the Hillsborough Epitaph are repeated quasi Bernard Herrmann (of Taxi Driver) and Jerry Goldsmith (of Chinatown) yet still maintaining an individual personality and yet more bells, a Meechan touch. The rhythmically alert and searching minimalist finale provides an apt conclusion never feeling contrived – great fun!

Fields of Destruction is a serious contribution eloquently played by David Thornton, rather intense and poetic in the first part finding a sense of purpose over a single persistent statement. The lyrical nature is paramount but with an ‘edge’. Macbeth is a transcription of an earlier brass band work and much more colourfulin its new dress. The fingerprint of jazz is present in a pulsating, open and in your face manner. However, we have the clarinet, for example, (not possible in a brass band) to lend a lyrical quality to this dramatic tone poem. The slow central episode is beautifully searching, unfolding as it does in measured layers with poetic precision. If cinematic in its gestures it has integrity and poise suited to concert music. The gentle Bach infused suspensions eventually reveal a funereal climax of a ‘Scotsman in Hollywood’ nature!

The album closes with Elegie, a delicately scored solo for trombone performed by Becky Smith, continuing the fine line up of soloists in another of Meechan’s touching threnodies whose searching strands he continues to mine. The concluding few minutes do provide a change of mood to a (again jazz influenced) dance segment though still laden with pathos from which it can’t ultimately surrender its soul.

Kew Wind Orchestra play with great dedication under the solid direction of Spencer Down. The notes by Dr Stephen Arthur Allen make interesting and detailed reading and there are also full soloist biographies and band personnel information. Produced by the composer this enterprising recording deserves support and band directors will find much of interest and relevance for their future programmes within its content.

Martin Ellerby

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