James MacMillan - Seven Last Words From The Cross (BMG)

Sunday 1st December 1996
James MacMillan - Seven Last Words From The Cross (BMG)

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: BMG 09026261252

Reviewed by John Irvine

Drawing upon the gospel records of the last words of Jesus upon the Cross and the text of the hymns and liturgies associated with Holy Week in the Catholic Church, MacMillan has created a moving work, a work suitable for both the concert hall and for the church liturgy. His intention is to convey the spirit of the devotion to be found in Holy Week services, something which, as a Catholic who has attended these services every year for 35 years without fail, he is very familiar. To describe the seven movements in any detail is a frustrating task: the music defies description and provokes more of an emotional feeling than an intellectual discussion. The movements build upon each other so that the listener is invited to participate in the sufferings of Christ by being drawn in deeper and deeper to the mystery of the Passion as each section moves onto the next. Although this piece was commissioned to be part of an audio visual production on BBC2, separated from the visuals the music is even more powerful. Indeed, the original production presented the seven words on seven consecutive nights, one by one; whereas in fact the combined piece augments and helps to focus emotional development of the piece. The whole is truly greater than the parts. This is more of an experience than mere music. The theme of innocent suffering is continued in the accompanying piece of music "Cantos Sagrados (Sacred Songs)" which superimposes liturgical texts and poems from Latin America on the theme of the fate of the Disappeared. Powerful stuff.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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