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Hyperion Records

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Crucifixion (1995) by Craigie Aitchison
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67460
Recording details: July 2003
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: August 2005
Total duration: 15 minutes 2 seconds

'an intense, deeply felt interpretation, full of beautiful and affecting singing, with all the elements—string orchestra, featured violin, choir and soloists—nicely balanced … As ever, MacMillan incorporates all his allusions, including those to Scottish traditional music, into an utterly individual style. The performance confirms Polyphony's place in the front rank of choirs' (Gramophone)

'This splendid new performance from Polyphony also conveys dignity, and a sense (hard to explain) that the suffering is, in some mysterious way, redemptive. Easier to quantify, the singing is also remarkably secure technically, the ensemble near perfect. Beautiful, powerful playing too from the Britten Sinfonia' (BBC Music Magazine)

'James MacMillan's work is informed by his Catholic faith, but rarely has he communicated his spiritual message as effectively as in this large-scale piece. Perhaps Haydn's example has forced him to raise his game, or maybe it was the heartrending text: either way, this is a modern choral masterpiece, and Stephen Layton and his forces its ideal interpreters' (The Independent)

'If you've heard them and followed the laudatory press they've gotten worldwide, you already know that this [Polyphony] is one of the world's truly great chamber choirs. Layton always gets breathtaking beauty of tone from them, as well as exquisite interpretive and dynamic nuances. They bring Macmillan's compelling sound-world to life more vibrantly than any other choir I've heard his music from. Organist Vivian and the Britten Sinfonia supply excellent support, and Hyperion seals the bargain with rich, clean SA sound that's a joy to hear' (American Record Guide)

'… the qualities which have made Polyphony one of the finest choirs around at the moment are very much in evidence in these assured and perceptive performances. James Vivian's organ accompaniments are perfectly balanced and the overall recorded sound is exquisite. All told, this disc offers a mesmerising listening experience' (International Record Review)

'MacMillan has a tremendous gift for making the simple resonate; the 2001 Te Deum, a first recording, shows he also knows just how to freshen an ageing choral tradition. Some fantastic singing here; and glorious music' (The Times)

'This stunning work, brilliantly performed by Stephen Layton's chamber choir Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia, is something no serious lover of choral music should be without' (Birmingham Post)

'In an ideal world, Hyperion's August disc of the month would sell by the truckload. The sheer quality of James MacMillan's Seven Last Words, the intensity of Stephen Layton's interpretation and the unrestrained, heartfelt performances of Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia should guarantee critical acclaim' (Music Week)

Te Deum
composer
2001
author of text
Book of Common Prayer

Te Deum  [15'02] English

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Te Deum was written in 2001 to mark the occasion of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. It was first performed at matins at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. A wholly original approach to these frequently set and performed words marks out MacMillan’s refreshing lack of ‘Anglican baggage’ in providing a new setting for choirs. It is something of an irony that such an original setting should be of a text serving the Anglican service of matins which, because of extensive liturgical reforms in recent years in the Church of England, now barely exists in its choral form. But this work transcends liturgical pigeon-holing and will serve in any context as yet another example of MacMillan’s desire to induce that ‘sense of silence and sacrifice in the listener’ which brings about transformation. Here, in this work, we have so much of the essential MacMillan: the quiet, contemplative phrases; the decorated solos reminiscent of late medieval and Scottish traditional music; sections of free singing where a phrase is given which is then picked up by other singers and mimicked, canon-like, over long-held vocal and organ chords; the dramatic use of walls of organ sound, especially near the end with whole ‘palm clusters’ on full organ; and beautifully interactive contrapuntal lines. Then, finally, the tenors’ and basses’ simply repeated chords invoking the Almighty to ‘Let me never be confounded’. The organ finishes the work with a reminiscence of a Scottish lament over a sustained chord of G major.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005

Other albums featuring this work
'MacMillan: Seven Last Words from the Cross & other choral works' (SACDA67460)
MacMillan: Seven Last Words from the Cross & other choral works
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