Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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Directly communicative and emotionally affecting, James MacMillan’s music often has a strong sense of narrative inspired by history or theology. Even in his scores that are intended to be purely abstract there is a distinct feeling of struggle and conflict between contrasting thematic materials. Common to all his output are a keen sense of structure and a shrewd understanding of the need to balance the expected with the unexpected in the development of musical ideas.
MacMillan’s powerful orchestral elegy The Confession of Isobel Gowdie premiered at the 1990 Proms to an ecstatic reception, launching his international career. The exultant percussion concerto Veni, veni, Emmanuel, first performed by Dame Evelyn Glennie at the 1992 Proms, promptly entered the repertoire. Other notable orchestral pieces to date include five symphonies, concertos for cello, violin, viola, oboe, trombone and saxophone, three concertos for piano, and a second percussion concerto.
A natural facility for developing ideas on a substantial scale enhances his music for the stage. Inés de Castro was premiered by Scottish Opera at the 1996 Edinburgh Festival, and in 2007 Welsh National Opera produced The Sacrifice. A one-act chamber opera Clemency made its debut at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio in 2011.
MacMillan’s deep love of the human voice has resulted in the song cycle Raising Sparks, and several major choral works such as the cantata Seven Last Words from the Cross, the St Luke Passion for chorus and chamber orchestra, Stabat mater for choir and string orchestra, and A European Requiem, commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival.
Among various instrumental and chamber pieces, Tuireadh for clarinet and string quartet is dedicated to the victims of the Piper Alpha disaster and their families, and exploits the composer’s experience of Scottish folk music. By contrast, Kiss on Wood for violin and piano has a private, devotional atmosphere that connects with his liturgical works.
from notes by Paul Conway © 2020