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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: 20 minutes 45 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)

Tenebrae Responsories
composer
2006; SSAATTBB unaccompanied; written for Cappella Nova and first performed by them in 2007 in St Andrew's in the Square, Glasgow; dedicated to Catherine and Nigel Gibbs as a wedding gift
author of text
5th, 7th and 8th Responsories at Matins on Good Friday

Other recordings available for download
Cappella Nova, Alan Tavener (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Tenebrae Responsories is a major work in MacMillan’s choral output written for Cappella Nova in 2006 and first performed by them the following year at St Andrew’s in the Square, Glasgow. MacMillan says: ‘I have always loved the Victoria settings of these texts and preciously guarded my old, and now legendary, recording of these by the Westminster Cathedral Choir under George Malcolm. It was a delight to be asked by Cappella Nova to set some of them myself.’ There are three movements which form a spiritually engaging and emotionally involving work which relates back in its searing intensity and some of its choral effects to Seven Last Words from the Cross (1993), one of MacMillan’s seminal earlier works. This work is also about the crucifixion. The word ‘tenebrae’ means ‘darkness’ and refers to the Catholic practice of gradually extinguishing candles following readings of the Psalms in special Holy Week services. The first movement is intensely chromatic, the second begins with three great choral outbursts of ‘Tradiderunt me’ (‘They delivered me [into the hands of the ungodly]’), returning at the end. They are then picked up at the start of the final movement with another three shouts of ‘Jesum’ (‘Jesus was betrayed by the ungodly man …’). The end is yet another example of MacMillan’s ability to give his audience something which will figuratively send them to their knees. A treble solo emerges from a final impassioned choral phrase describing how Peter followed the crucifixion procession from a distance to see the end, and he sings a dying soliloquy, a lament, walking off stage until he can no longer be heard. This remarkable work leaves a vivid impression in performance.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2013


Other albums featuring this work
'MacMillan: Tenebrae' (CKD301)
MacMillan: Tenebrae
MP3 £8.00FLAC £10.00ALAC £10.00 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 88.2 kHz £18.00ALAC 24-bit 88.2 kHz £18.00 CKD301  Download only   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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