The Magnificat and Nunc dimittis were both commissioned, separately, by Timothy Brown for the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge. The former was premièred at the 2000 Spitalfields Winter Festival in London, while the latter was composed for a BBC broadcast in 2001. Both are large-scale settings, designed to stand as concert works in their own right or to be paired together for liturgical purposes. The work is scored for double choir with soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists and a solo cello. The dedicatee, Christopher Rutter, who sang in the first performance of the Magnificat, had his life tragically cut short in a road accident three months later, shortly before the Nunc dimittis was due to have been premièred. In each movement I have tried to recreate the Renaissance practice of alternating chant and polyphony, the latter developing texturally, rather than harmonically (herein lying the ‘variations’ of the subtitle). The cello uses material from both choirs, accompanying, rising above and playing against the ongoing variations, but always reverting to fragments, if not entire quotations, of the chant melody.
from notes by Tarik O'Regan © 2006