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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 59 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)

After Virtue
First line:
It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels
composer
2006; SSAATTBB unaccompanied; dedicated to Alasdair MacIntyre
author of text
from After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Gerald Duckworth & Co, London, 1981; third edition, 2007)

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Of After Virtue MacMillan writes: ‘This is the only secular work on this recording but its message is a warning about how certain readings of the secular can lead us to barbarity. It is a setting of the last page of Alasdair MacIntyre’s book of the same name, a landmark tome in moral philosophy and a profound criticism of modern moral discourse. He claims that older forms of moral discourse, especially Aristotle and Aquinas are a better guide for the common good. MacIntyre’s revival of “virtue ethics” has had a big impact on me.’ The intensely rhythmic nature of this setting, the imaginative humming colours, the ferocity of expression, the impetus given by streams of moving quavers hummed above the pounding text, and the wholly unexpected and mesmerizingly beautiful utterances of ‘Saint Benedict’ with which the piece ends, all add up to a remarkable tour de force.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2013

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