Cappella Nova - Who are these Angels? - McAlister Matheson Music
These discs of James MacMillan's choral music have been issued almost simultaneously. The only overlap is three of the Strathclyde Motets - but it is interesting to hear the difference in approach to these duplicated works. For example, O Radiant Dawn receives a positive, almost declamatory performance from The Sixteen, while Cappella Nova treat it much more reverently.
Meanwhile, Alan Tavener and Cappella Nova bring us a host of new choral works including MacMillan's second set of seven Strathclyde Motets. These cover a wide range of styles and techniques; for example, Os mutorum, sung by four female voices and accompanied by William Taylor on harp, consists of phrases that seem to hang suspended in time, while Qui meditabitur juxtaposes fluid ornamented passages with a repeated fortissimo chordal motif. The title track Who are these Angels, in which the choir is joined by the Edinburgh Quartet, evokes an intriguing atmosphere, especially at the end where the strings imitate the cries of seabirds. The disc ends with two organ-accompanied works: the short, simple Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman, and the forceful motet Tota pulchra es, performed here to stunning effect. As an added bonus, the booklet documents a fascinating conversation between Rebecca Tavener and James MacMillan.