Classical CD Reviews

PETER MEECHAN: Apophenia; Epitaph; Chorlton Suite; Fields of Destruction; Macbeth; Elegie – Rex Richardson, trumpet/ Becky Smith, trom./ David Thornton, euphonium/ Kew Wind Orch./ Spencer Down – L4 Recordings

A talented voice that bears watching in the coming years.

Published on October 4, 2013

“Apophenia” = PETER MEECHAN: Apophenia; Epitaph; Chorlton Suite; Fields of Destruction; Macbeth; Elegie – Rex Richardson, trumpet/ Becky Smith, trombone/ David Thornton, euphonium/ Kew Wind Orch./ Spencer Down – L4 Recordings L4R001, 63:25 ***1/2:

The Kew Wind Orchestra is one of the finest amateur wind ensembles in Britain, of which there are many. The skills are of a high quality and intonation very good indeed. I always enjoy hearing these kinds of ensembles, few and far between though they are. Peter Meechan is a young British composer, the notes rather over-effusively referring to him as “one of our most important composers”. I think it’s a little early to be making those sorts of claims, though Meechan is talented no doubt. The works of this disc show that talent but also show a work in progress as well. Macbeth for instance, a tone poem on the Shakespearian character, strikes me as somewhat diffuse and disconnected. Though it is a tone poem there was little discernible in the work to give it cohesion, and I think it drags somewhat and tends to lose interest. Elegie as well, though far shorter, needs the fine trombone soloist in order to distract from the real lack of substance in the music.

The title-track Apophenia (“Seeing patterns where there are none”) is a trumpet concerto written while the composer was working on his PhD. It’s highly concentrated, jazz-oriented—thought not jazz—and very concise in its use of small, repeated motives both melodically and rhythmically, though this is nowhere near minimalism lest that come to mind. I enjoyed the work though its dedicatee, Rex Richardson, does not have the most winning tone in the world, possibly because he is primarily a jazz player. But as I said, this is not jazz, and I would have preferred a more robust sound, though Richardson easily has the chops to negotiate this work.

The other concerto, Fields of Destruction, named after the poppy fields in Afghanistan which are used to manufacture drugs sold to western countries in order to purchase weapons used to kill westerners, is basically a slow piece which displays the euphonium nicely. The political undertones are not fully explained, nor do I really care about such things in music, but the work makes a fine addition to the repertory for the instrument.

The Chorlton Suite, aside from being the most recent piece here, is by far the best on the disc. Its three movements are “pure” music, “Chorlton” being the street where the composer lives, and the musical materials are both gripping and well-constructed. Epitaph gets my vote for the second-best, a memorial work to the 96 people who were crushed to death and the 766 injured in 1989 at a Sheffield Wednesday football (soccer) game. It is a searing work, memorable, and totally suited to its subject matter.

The sound is clear but somewhat claustrophobic, lacking in width and presence. Turning up the volume helps alleviate some, but not all of the issues. Meechan is one to watch, and should have lots of time to develop, being in his early thirties.

—Steven Ritter




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