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Track(s) taken from CDA67460

On the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin

author of text
Festival Hymn On the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, first published in Golden Grove (1655); text as printed in Bishop Heber's edition of Taylor's works, volume 15 (1822)

Polyphony, Stephen Layton (conductor), James Vivian (organ)
Recording details: July 2003
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: August 2005
Total duration: 6 minutes 41 seconds

Cover artwork: Crucifixion (1995) by Craigie Aitchison
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'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)

'Hypnotic intensity: harshness mingled with beauty … there is beauty, too, in the setting of Jeremy Taylor’s poem on the Annunciation. I haven’t heard the rival recordings from The Sixteen or New College Choir but I doubt that they convey the quality of this almost timeless setting better than Polyphony' (MusicWeb International)» More
On the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin was written for the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1997 and sets a beautiful poem by Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) about transformation – the ‘winged harbinger’ who ‘might shift his clothes, and be / A perfect man, as well as we’. This is perfect territory for MacMillan, whose setting for five-part choir and organ reflects the wings of the harbinger in his decorative progress as well as the divine peace in the slowness of its movements. The long-breathed phrases, the shifting lights of harmony, the warmly undulating murmurs of seeming approbation (echoed by the organ) which accompany ‘How good a God have we …’ lead to the climax of the poem: ‘Let us like ourselves make man, / And not from man the woman take, / But from the woman, man.’ Quiet Allelujahs are joined by a joyfully dancing single organ line which continues long after the voices have ceased – becoming gradually softer as it dances into eternity.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2005

Cette œuvre, écrite en 1997 pour le chœur de Gonville and Caius College (Cambridge), met en musique un splendide poème de Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) sur la métamorphose – le «messager ailé» qui «pourrait changer d’habits, et être / Un parfait homme, autant que nous». Voilà qui convint idéalement à MacMillan, dont la mise en musique pour chœur à cinq parties et orgue traduit, dans sa progression ornementale, les ailes du messager, la lenteur des mouvements suggérant, elle, la paix divine. Les longues phrases, les lueurs harmoniques changeantes, les murmures chaudement ondoyants d’une apparente approbation (auxquels l’orgue fait écho) qui accompagnent les mots «Quel Dieu bon nous avons …» débouchent sur l’apogée du poème: «Faisons comme nous-mêmes l’homme, / Et tirons non pas la femme de l’homme, / Mais de la femme, l’homme.» De paisibles Alléluias sont rejoints par une ligne d’orgue joyeusement dansante, qui continue bien après que les voix se sont tues, s’adoucissant peu à peu à mesure qu’elle danse dans l’éternité.

extrait des notes rédigées par Paul Spicer © 2005
Français: Hyperion Records Ltd

On the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin [Bei der Verkündung der Heiligen Jungfrau] wurde 1997 für den Chor des Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge komponiert und vertont ein wunderschönes Gedicht von Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) über das Verändern – der „winged harbinger“ [geflügelte Vorbote], „might shift his clothes, and be / A perfect man, as well as we“ [kann wohl seine Kleidung wechseln, und ist / ein perfekter Mann, genau wie wir]. In der Welt dieses Gedichts fühlt sich MacMillan ausnehmend zuhause. MacMillan zeichnet in dieser Vertonung für fünfstimmigen Chor und Orgel die Flügel des Vorboten in seinem wunderschönen Flug bildhaft nach, wie er auch den göttlichen Frieden mithilfe langsamer musikalischer Bewegungen darzustellen vermag. Sowohl die weit ausholenden Phrasen als auch die sich ändernden harmonischen Farben sowie das angenehme auf- und abschwellende Gemurmel von anscheinender Zustimmung (das von der Orgel wiederholt wird) auf die Worte „How good a God we have…“ [Was für einen guten Gott wir haben…] führt zum Höhepunkt des Gedichtes: „Let us like ourselves make man, / And not from man the woman take, / But from the woman, man“ [Lass uns wie uns selbst zum Manne schaffen, / Und nicht vom Mann die Frau nehmen, / aber von der Frau, Mann]. Leise Hallelujas werden von einer freudig tanzenden einstimmigen Orgelstimme begleitet, die auch lange, nachdem die Vokalstimmen verstummt sind, fortfährt, allmählich aber leiser wird und in die Ewigkeit tanzt.

aus dem Begleittext von Paul Spicer © 2005
Deutsch: Elke Hockings

Other albums featuring this work

MacMillan: Seven Last Words from the Cross & other choral works
This album is not yet available for downloadSACDA67460Super-Audio CD
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