Reflections & Recollections, Volume 2
Mark John McEncroe
2014 / Wirripang Pty Ltd
Review by Kathy Parsons
Reflections & Recollections, Volume 2 is the second of a two-volume collection of original piano solos by Australian composer Mark John McEncroe. Subtitled “Musical Images For Piano,” the eleven tracks on this album are performed by Helen Kennedy, a pianist who has performed internationally and has an active teaching studio in Sydney. Although the album is categorized as “classical,” McEncroe effectively incorporates elements of jazz, Baroque, and contemporary stylings into his music. McEncroe regards his pieces as “musical paintings,” and uses his Japanese garden as a setting for his work. Often fluid and dreamy, McEncroe’s music is similar to the music of some of the French Impressionists, creating colorful images that will be different for each listener according to his or her own experiences in life.
Reflections & Recollections, Volume 2 begins with “Nocturnal Images,” a piece that opens with an exotic Middle Eastern theme that is interwoven with other themes throughout the piece. At 7 1/2 minutes, it’s a great introduction to the varied music that follows. “Fading Memories” is rhythmically very free, with an array of changing themes that segue in and out, much like thoughts and reflections. I love “Dance of the Pagans,” a lively and spirited dance that becomes slower and more graceful in the second half. “Natalie’s Theme” is much slower, darker and more emotional. “Cindy’s Song” is another favorite. Kind of a waltz, the piece feels simpler and lighter than some of the others. I also really like the dark and mysterious “A Penny For Your Thoughts.” I hear quite a bit of Chopin in this piece, and I LOVE Chopin! “Daybreak” is likely the most peaceful of the eleven pieces - gently uplifting and optimistic. The melancholy and gorgeous “Floating Lillies” is my other favorite. The varied themes range from dark and still to lively ripples in the water. Some passages express deep tonal colors, others, light pastels. At almost 8 1/2 minutes, the themes intertwine to create a fascinating whole. “Shimmering Lights,” by far the longest piece, is something of a “grand finale” that again takes us through a wide range of themes, most of which are relaxing and serene.
Fellow pianists may be interested in knowing that there is a companion songbook for this album that is also reviewed on MainlyPiano.com.
Reflections & Recollections, Volume 2 is recommended to those who like their solo piano with a strong classical influence. It is currently available from Mark John McEncroe’s website, Amazon, Wirripang (Australia) and from iTunes.
May 30, 2016