Related Reviews
4 Stars
'...we have here basically timeless musical performances, which are at the same time rooted in tradition and, in the best sense, modern.'
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International Record Review
‘All of the music on this disc is characterized by its intelligence and forward-looking beauty…’
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BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'
‘[ mihi…] is properly timeless isn’t it? Those celtic ornamentations he uses, and this choir is so good at that as well now. They are very beautiful…’
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BBC Music Magazine
Choral & Song Choice: 'A marvellous set of performances.'
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Classical CD Review
‘The composer’s intricate ensemble writing is beautifully performed by the superb chorus, and the engineering richly captures the warm resonance of Church of Holy Rude, Stirling, UK.’
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MusicWeb International
'The music is stimulating and compelling and the performances are first rate.'
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'...fine sound that complements excellent performances by Cappella Nova.'
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Choir & Organ
5 Stars
'... such intensity...'
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Le Scena Musicale
'MacMillan is a champion virtuoso of church space.'
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'Strong engineering and a smaller, well drilled choir both assist his music...'
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The Observer
4 Stars
'They bring control and precision to the ecstatic, incantatory nature of MacMillan's work...'
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Cappella Nova - Alpha & Omega - Gramophone

24 January 2014
Alexandra Coghlan

It's no coincidence that the same early music groups who specialise in Renaissance polyphony are increasingly making a second study of contemporary choral music. Scottish chamber ensemble Cappella Nova are just one of many choirs exploring and exploiting the natural affinities between the repertoire of the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Their latest disc, ‘Alpha & Omega', is the third in a trio of releases devoted to the music of James MacMillan - a composer whose own music sustains an ever more lively dialogue between Medieval and polyphonic traditions and a contemporary choral idiom.

Rich in premiere recordings and with the additional curiosity of a composer conducted rendition of the Missa Dunelmi, this is an essential disc on content alone. As MacMillan admits in the booklet note, he increasingly enjoys revisiting ideas and reworking them, giving this programme an unusually organic feel. The bluesy miasma of the Mass, with its signature Celtic flourishes, is reimagined in the harmonic haze of mihi..., while thematically we return again and again to Mary - in the forthright annunciation of the Magnificat, as mourner in the beautiful Cum vidisset Jesus, with its collapse into wordless humming that vibrates with emotion. MacMillan seems increasingly dissatisfied with the restrictions of traditional choral textures, incorporating sounds that escape the limitations of text-humming; the violin obbligato of Domine non secundum peccata nostra.

Cappella Nova have a particularly white, straight sound (noticeably streamlined since their first MacMillan recording, ‘Tenebrae'-1/08) which shows off the bone-structure of these exquisite motets, poised somewhere between beauty and anguished intensity...carefully translucent, anchored with unobtrusive richness by some excellent basses.
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