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Hyperion Records

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Angels Supporting a Dial which Indicates the Hours of the Different Scenes of the Passion, an illustration for The Life of Christ by James Tissot (1836-1902)
Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67970
Recording details: July 2012
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: June 2013
Total duration: 4 minutes 47 seconds

'The combination of Westminster Cathedral Choir and MacMillan is irresistible. We are drawn immediately into their complicity by the jaw-dropping Tu es Petrus … its simultaneous celebratory character and clear rootedness in liturgical tradition make it far more than a one-off firework. Quite different are the extraordinary Tenebrae Responsories … the sound of the Westminster choristers adds something unique and the building's resonance buoys up MacMillan's arching lines (carefully shaped under Baker's direction) and dazzling, often bitingly dissonant choral pillars … the performances throughout are outstanding, and beautifully recorded' (Gramophone)

'James MacMillan creates a magnificent effusion of sound, over which the trebles of the Westminster Cathedral Choir soar dramatically … the three movements of Tenebrae Responsories are remarkable for different reasons … this is an intensely concentrated sequence visiting dark, lonely places of the spirit. Of the nine shorter pieces, the ebullient Edinburgh Te Deum is particularly valuable, further attesting to MacMillan's reputation as one of the finest living composers of ecclesiastical music. Martin Baker's direction is masterly' (BBC Music Magazine)

'MacMillan is proof that Catholic composers need not be conventional … the three are an excellent example of that … this is honesty not often heard in sacred music … it's hard not to be impressed by the committed and well-disciplined singing of the Westminster Cathedral Choir, particularly by its boys, who negotiate MacMillan's difficult melismatic writing with confidence' (International Record Review)

'MacMillan has a close relationship with Westminster Cathedral, seeing it as a beacon of musical professionalism to which other Catholic churches should aspire. The performance is correspondingly electric: a perfect balance of voices, topped with a searing, steely treble tone, delivering such perfectly consonant harmonies it’s often goosebump-inducing. An additional draw is the cavernous acoustic of Westminster Cathedral itself—particularly in the joyful noise that is Summae Trinitati, you could be standing in its late-Victorian splendour as the brass and percussion reverberate around you. It's glorious' (Sinfini.com)

Serenity
First line:
O salutaris hostia
composer
2009; SATB and organ; to the pupils and staff of St Aloysius' College, Glasgow
author of text
Antiphon for the Feast of Corpus Christi
author of text

Other recordings available for download
Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Serenity was written for the 150th anniversary celebrations of St Aloysius’ College in Glasgow, the school MacMillan’s children attended. St Aloysius is an independent Catholic school founded in 1859 which has a spacious, domed neo-baroque chapel. MacMillan’s work is a setting of two texts: one by St Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) in Latin, and the other attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) in English. The Aquinas text is a well-known Benediction hymn and Niebuhr’s famous prayer, universally known as ‘Serenity’, gives MacMillan his title. The first section setting Aquinas’s words is a good example of MacMillan’s ability to write a straightforward setting. Indeed, MacMillan uses the piece frequently with his own church choir in Glasgow. It is, in effect, harmonized chant doubled by the organ. In the second section, to Neibuhr’s words, the sopranos sing an ornamented chant—unmistakeably redolent of MacMillan—over an organ pedal point. This pairing is repeated, with the ‘O salutaris hostia’ hymn acting as a refrain between verses of Neibuhr’s ‘Serenity’. In the last verse the sopranos descant the three key words of the opening of the poem—‘serenity, courage, wisdom’—over the lower voices, which sing a Latin doxology in unison using the melody given to the Latin words throughout. As the descant dies away so the Latin words grow to a strong conclusion and the organ carries the anthem loudly to its end.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2011


Other albums featuring this work
'MacMillan: Choral Music' (CDA67867)
MacMillan: Choral Music

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