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John REEMAN (b.
Lamentation (1993) [9:51]
“And the cock crowed” (1994) [9:52]
Paschalis (1996) [11:39]
The Third Day (1999) [16:09]
Symphony for Strings (1997) [16:55]
rec. (live) 1998 (Lamentation, Symphony), 2003 (other
works), no venue mentioned
Lamentation, “And the cock crowed” and Paschalis were
originally composed at intervals between 1993 and 1996, and
meant to be played separately as self-standing works. In
1999, however, John Reeman completed a fourth work The
Third Day as the final panel of a tetraptych with
the title of Four Passion Meditations, which
is the completion of a projected series of works based on
the Passion – a sequence contemplated as early as 1992.
Lamentation opens with a long lament slowly developing over whispering strings.
The music becomes considerably more intense, while retaining
its predominantly elegiac character. After reaching a powerful,
declamatory climax, it slowly recedes, by way of a shortened
restatement of the opening, into uneasy silence. “And
the cock crowed”, deals with Peter’s denial. The
music is full of contrasting moods, alternating angry outbursts
and some almost static episodes. The movement ends with a
beautiful coda bringing solace and forgiveness. Paschalis appropriately
enough opens with a slow, doom-laden processional of great
intensity, until the music reaches a standstill point followed
by a poignant chorale, ending in ambiguity. Logically enough, The
Third Day more or less begins where the preceding
panel left off. It opens hesitantly, although some strongly
accented music provides contrast. After some lively exchanges,
the music reverts to the opening mood, albeit with sharp
interjections suggesting an expectant mood. Long-held notes
in high strings support a meditative theme carried by the
cello. After a brief development and a shortened restatement
of the ‘expectant’ section, the music launches the dance-like,
assertive final section ending with a sustained, aspiring
coda. Although these four works were written as separate
pieces, they certainly make more sense when played together
as a ‘Passion Symphony’ although there appears to be little
or no thematic link between the four panels. Four Passion
Meditations is a magnificent, often quite beautiful
and strongly expressive piece of music.
for Strings is a compact work in a single movement,
albeit falling into several contrasting sections. It
opens with pizzicati supported by high strings.
After some lively interplay, the music pauses in a long,
mysterious interlude, before moving forward to a twofold
climax: “majestic” (violins) and rather more brutal”.
Some of the earlier music is then briefly recalled until
the final, inconclusive collapse. The concise Symphony
for Strings is a rather more enigmatic, emotionally
complex and rewarding work than Four Passion Meditations;
and it is considerably more tightly organised and demanding.
Reeman writes sympathetically and idiomatically for strings,
as Scena for string quartet (available on Campion
Cameo 2046 reviewed here) also makes clear. These superbly
crafted, often beautiful and deeply felt pieces certainly
add to the glorious canon of British works for strings and
undoubtedly deserve to become part of the repertoire.
present, fully committed performances were obviously recorded
live at various locations, but the sound of this composer-produced
disc is quite fine. This should appeal to anyone who has
enjoyed this composer’s Scena for string quartet
and who relishes British contemporary music for strings.
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