STYLE: Classical RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 22423- LABEL: Kock Records 310502 FORMAT: CD Album
Reviewed by Dave Massey
From the haunting whale-like sounds at the beginning of 'The Confession Of Isabel Gowdie', this is a recording that arrests and holds the attention. With excruciating minor second clashes and long piercing high notes on the strings, it builds the emotions to fever pitch before slowly dissolving into a single note and chords full of unresolved harmonies. The theme of the work is inspired by Isabel Gowdie who was burned at the stake for her Catholic faith during the Reformation and as such it is pervaded with musical references to torture and the hysterical fervour of those who propagated a bigoted view of religion. The harsh brass voices and accented chords are only occasionally punctuated by a plaintive string sound that no doubt depicts the martyred woman in contrast to her suffering and those who inflicted it. A final crescendo provides a beautiful and imaginative mixture of strings and barely perceptible woodwind that creates a harmonic overtone effect above the building chord. It is not an easy listen, and neither is the accompanying piece, "Tryst", based on a love poem by William Soutar which utilises many of the same effects - including MacMillan's favoured glissando in the string sections. Even so, this is a recording well worth persevering with.
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