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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: 9 minutes 17 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)

The Edinburgh Te Deum
First line:
Te Deum laudamus
composer
1978; SSAATB and organ; dedicated to Father Aidan Nichols; first performed in Westminster Cathedral in November 2011
author of text
Hymn to the Trinity

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Edinburgh Te Deum was written in 1978 when MacMillan was an undergraduate at Edinburgh University and studying with Kenneth Leighton. He had formed a Schola (choir) for the Catholic Chaplaincy in the city at the invitation of Father Aidan Nichols OP, later to become one of the major Catholic writers in theology and liturgy. The Te Deum is dedicated to Father Nichols; never performed at the time, it was finally given its premiere in Westminster Cathedral in November 2011. The Te Deum is a large-scale setting intended for liturgical use. The whole of the first section is given to trebles (or sopranos), the cries of ‘Sanctus’ are given dramatic block chords punctuated by the organ. Here are the embryonic choral outbursts which we noted in the Tenebrae Responsories and Seven Last Words from the Cross. The ‘Tu, rex gloriae’ brings further drama before a slow bass solo for ‘Te ergo quaesumus’ leads into the gentle final section and a quiet ending.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2013

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