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James MacMillan: Stabat Mater reviews, CD and tour

(February 2017)

James MacMillan's new Stabat Mater is released on disc by The Sixteen and tours with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra including a performance in Glasgow UNESCO City of Culture's month of the composer's music in March.

James MacMillan’s powerful Stabat Mater was acclaimed by audience and press alike at its Barbican premiere in October, performed by The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia conducted by Harry Christophers. Matching his Seven Last Words from the Cross, the new work is for choir and string orchestra, lasts close to an hour and is launched from the closing harmonies of the earlier score.

Commissioned by the Genesis Foundation, Stabat Mater sets the 13th century Latin hymn which meditates on the suffering of Christ’s mother Mary at the foot of the Cross, reflecting a classic MacMillan blend of sorrow, anger and contemplation. The recording of Stabat Mater is released on 3 March on The Sixteen’s Coro label, following earlier discs with Miserere, Tenebrae Responsories and Strathclyde Motets (COR16150).

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"An overwhelming world premiere… It’s not often that the composer of a new work gets a standing ovation, but then every new work isn’t like James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater for chorus and string orchestra… The chorus’s plangent cries, carved with a scalpel, might have been expected – but what about the string commentary of stabbing chords, high-speed buzzings, sickening crescendos, growls and whispers?... the intensity of this performance did not wobble… from noble lament through fury and shriek to contemplative devotion."
The Times

"MacMillan speaks of a ‘painful world of loss, violence, and spiritual desolation’, and those are the intense feelings packed into his score. Both sides of MacMillan are to be found here, the devotional and the painter of bold, dramatic canvases – the former in the ethereal writing for solo and ensemble voices, the latter in the lacerating blows and feverish anxieties depicted in the string ensemble."
Financial Times

Having toured the work to Saffron Walden, Norwich and Manchester, The Sixteen introduces Scottish audiences to Stabat Mater, visiting Queen's Hall in Edinburgh (23 March) and City Halls in Glasgow (24 March) as part of its UNESCO City of Culture celebrations. Performers in the Glasgow MacMillan month include the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Nash Ensemble and students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Scottish premieres include the Viola Concerto with soloist Lawrence Power, Symphony No.4 and the Concertino for Horn and Strings. Events are presented in conjunction with Glasgow Life on behalf of the City of Glasgow.
> MacMillan month in Glasgow 

In addition to Stabat Mater, MacMillan’s recent large-scale choral works include A European Requiem premiered at the Oregon Bach Festival last year, Gloria which received its US premiere in Pittsburgh in January and travels to Liverpool with Ian Bostridge as soloist in June, and Little Mass for children’s choir and orchestra receiving its first North American performance in Toronto next season.

The remote Scottish island of St Kilda provided the surprise hit recording of 2016, in the form of Decca’s Lost Songs of St Kilda conducted by MacMillan and including his orchestration of one of the songs from the depopulated community. Selling over 15,000 copies, the disc topped the Classical Artists chart and was Classic FM’s Album of the Year.
> lostsongsofstkilda.com 


> Further information on Work: Stabat Mater



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