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MacMillan: chorus of praise for new Mass recording

(June 2001)

Hyperion’s disc of James MacMillan’s choral music (CDA67219) has been attracting excellent reviews, being described as a “must have” by Gramophone and “a disc that should not be missed” by BBC Music Magazine. Earlier recordings have concentrated on the composer’s choral output for the concert hall, including Seven Last Words from the Cross and Cantos Sagrados, but this is the first CD devoted to his liturgical music. The centrepiece is the Mass written for the Millennium celebrations at Westminster Cathedral, coupled with sacred anthems including A Child’s Prayer, Christus Vincit and Seinte Mari Moder Milde.

“It is hard to think of any recent music that conveys religious ecstasy as intensely as James MacMillan’s Mass... Closer in style to Britten than to Tavener, MacMillan is distinctive in his brilliant use of choral effects, with surging crescendos to stir the blood: it is music of high voltage from first to last. Equally the shorter choral works on the disc, all written in the 1990s, have a rare concentration, often involving powerful slabs of sound. The singing of the Westminster Cathedral Choir is electrifying.” The Guardian

“A strongly sung reminder of MacMillan’s far-reaching abilities as a vocal composer... The Gloria of the Mass contains some particularly effective and memorable music, not least some marvellously atmospheric and haunting organ writing, and the crepescular Agnus Dei lingers in the mind long after the final notes die away.” Gramophone

A new disc featuring MacMillan’s larger-scale choral works is to be recorded this autumn by Chandos, to include Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in their orchestral arrangements, Màiri for 16-part choir, and the composer’s new score The Birds of Rhiannon which receives its premiere at the BBC Proms on 26 July. Performers on the disc are to be the BBC Singers and the BBC Philharmonic conducted by MacMillan, under his new role as the orchestra’s Composer/Conductor.

MacMillan's symphonic cantata Quickening, unveiled at the BBC Proms in 1999, receives its US premiere on 18 April 2002 performed by its co-commissioners the Philadelphia Orchestra and Singers Chorale under Andrew Davis. The work can also be heard again in the UK on 2 February in a performance by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. All performances of Quickening feature the four solo voices of The Hilliard Ensemble. Cantos Sagrados is now available in a version with orchestra, which was performed in April by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus under Alexander Lazarev.

To view MacMillan's choral works with orchestra click here
To view MacMillan's choral works without orchestra click here

> Further information on Work: Mass (Original version)

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