MacMillan's St Luke Passion: reviews from Amsterdam
James MacMillan's compact St Luke Passion, scored for choral forces and chamber orchestra, was premiered in Amsterdam in March and reaches the UK next season.
Following its world premiere in March at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, attracting a clean sweep of excellent reviews, James MacMillan’s new St Luke Passion has travelled to Duke University in the USA and reaches the UK next season. The composer conducts both the UK premiere on 4 December with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Chorus and Youth Chorus and the first London performance with Britten Sinfonia forces at the Barbican on Easter Saturday, 5 April 2015. The Australian premiere is planned for the 2015/16 season.
“The work has no solo parts as such. Instead the Evangelist’s text describing Christ’s suffering is given to the full chorus and Jesus’ own words are assigned to a children’s choir alternating between unison and three-part harmony. It all works wonderfully well. The mixed choir is supported by a modest 40 piece ensemble which enhances the work’s strength. The organ also plays a prominent role and contributes some magical effects. The performance, in the capable hands of Markus Stenz, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio Chorus and National Children’s Choir was absolutely first class.”
“MacMillan’s musical language is crystal clear. Musically wrenching sounds combine seamlessly with a sonorous and eminently singable discourse. The modest orchestral forces provide some wonderful effects with diffuse chords, subtle veils of sound and ominous timpani pounding, but other elements of the text’s portrayal are purposely restrained. Just as the end seems near, MacMillan delivers a comforting ‘flashforward’ with fragments from the scriptures describing Christ’s resurrection and ascension. The long tutti flurries and choral murmurs are a fitting conclusion to this major, yet understated work.”
“MacMillan’s exceptional talent for vocal writing has been described before in these columns and the St Luke Passion is no exception. His broad tonal idiom with Gregorian chant at the core has strong listener appeal. The performance was superb and MacMillan was visibly moved by the audience reception. Please can we agree here and now to hear this work every year around Easter time?”
The autumn unveils MacMillan’s new Percussion Concerto No.2 written for Colin Currie, with first performances in Utrecht on 7 November with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and in London on 11 December with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Currie has given over 110 performances of MacMillan’s first percussion concerto, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, and has recorded it twice for Naxos and Challenge Classics.
> Read an interview about St Luke Passion
> Further information on Work: St Luke Passion
Photo: Philip Gatward