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

Published Sunday 5th April 2009
James MacMillan - Seven Last Words From The Cross (Naxos)
James MacMillan - Seven Last Words From The Cross (Naxos)

STYLE: Choral
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: Naxos 8570719

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This is the debut recording by the Dmitri Ensemble and I urge and implore the big cheeses at Naxos to sign them up to a long-term contract, as they are superb. The well known Scottish composer seems to agree with me. Said Mr MacMillan, "I am honoured and thrilled that they are choosing to mark my 50th birthday with this disc on Naxos, bringing together a number of different choral works from 1993 to 2005." 'The Seven Last Words' were commissioned by the BBC and broadcast in Holy Week 1994 and later recorded. Listening to one piece a night over a week rather than all seven in one sitting may be a better way to appreciate them, as each is very different, reflecting and meditating on the different aspects of Christ's sufferings and sacrifice as they do. The three remaining pieces should not be considered as filler at all. All three are world premiere recordings and all add to the overall picture. They are "Christus Vincit" ("Christ Conquers"), "Nemo To Condemnavit" (the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery in John Chapter 8), and ". . . Here In Hiding. . .", a setting of words by Thomas Aquinas translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins. MacMillan is a very clever composer. His work is full of references to earlier compositions based on the same words and all his music is deeply rooted within his Catholicism. However, he also has a light touch with his music being serious without necessarily being sombre. Indeed I was fortunate enough to attend a pre-performance talk given by MacMillan at Stopsley Baptist Church in Luton and he came across as being a humble man, well aware of how his gifts should best be used. Even without the super-budget price this disc would be an essential purchase for all with an interest in contemporary choral music.

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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