Mark John McEncroe composer
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra | Anthony Armoré conductor
Mark J Saliba orchestration
Australian composer Mark John McEncroe’s SYMPHONIC SUITES NUMBER 1 & 2 – A MEDIEVAL SAGA is a classic adventure in orchestral music. Powered by McEncroe’s thematic style, these two symphonic suites lead the listener through a harrowing and dramatic story of ancient conflict and grandeur. Like a film score from the Golden Age Of Hollywood, McEncroe’s musical ‘storytelling’ is made clear by his powerful melodic material, which conjures the sweeping shots of a classic epic film in the listener’s imagination.
The premise of McEncroe’s suites also recalls classic techniques, though, in this case, McEncroe picks up the centuries-old tradition of programmatic composition. Dating to the third decade of the nineteenth century, ‘program music’ is a genre in which wordless musical works are written to tell stories. Sometimes, these narratives are simple, but many nineteenth and twentieth century programmatic compositions have multiple scenes and characters. McEncroe’s suites fall into this more specific type of piece, and both succeed in conveying this intense detail of the composer’s thirteen-part story.
Like the great programmatic works of the Romantic era, McEncroe’s Symphonic Suites are driven by strong melodic ideas that represent the primary characters and events that populate the musical story. These themes are memorable, clear, and, most impressively, thread the needle of being distinct enough so the listener can mark the difference between different characters or scenes, but not so inconsistent in their character that the momentum of the narrative is disrupted or lost. McEncroe is gifted at using melody to convey the mood and stakes of every point in his story, even in scenes that are relatively chaotic, complex, and nuanced. To this end, the sequence of the “Rising Discontent” and “Peasants Uprising” movements from Symphonic Suite No. 1 epitomizes McEncroe’s ability to clearly communicate abstract concepts (i.e. economic anxiety boiling over into populist revolt) with wordless musical storytelling.