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John REEMAN (b. 1946)
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]
Opus 20/Scott Stroman
rec. (live) 1998 (Lamentation, Symphony), 2003 (other works), no venue mentioned
REEMAN CRJR01 [64:53]



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.
 
The Symphony 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.
 
John 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.
 
The 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.
 
Hubert Culot
 



 


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