MacMillan: Tenebrae - Cappella Nova - Musical Pointers

These are times when faith and faiths are central in discussion and controversy, with strong contesting viewpoints abroad. With the same mailing as this CD, we had from the LSO a concert series entitles Belief - music with power to inspire, whatever you believe in.., to include the world premiere of James MacMillan's St John Passion.

MacMillan has always had a strong Christian background to his compositions and it is clear from the interview which constitutes the inset notes for this CD that he continues to be very heavily engaged in composing a cappella music.

Here we have an early Missa Brevis, written when he was 17 and 'touched up just a little' for this recording. It emerges strong and confident, and right he is to confess being still proud of it.

For his Strathclyde Motets he deliberately 'dropped the difficulty notch a little'; I found them less interesting except for one which has a 'semi-improvised' accompaniment for a trumpet, which rings out splendidly in the resonant acoustic of Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh. But the three Tenebrae Responsories are something other, tortured harmonies and tessiturae stretching the eight soloists to their limits; very intense and moving music.

The voices are full throated and obviously committed, caught by vivid recording, and supplied for us with an unfussy booklet which gives a clear background understanding of MacMillan's position at this stage of his composing life; the interview with Rebecca Tavener, also printed in full on Linn's website.


Musical Pointers
31 October 2007