Reviewed by John Irvine
Scotland's James MacMillan is not everyone's cup of tea - he belongs to the modern "crash, bang, wallop' school of composition, but with a difference. The difference is that MacMillan has faith, and his music has soul. He can write beautiful music as well as brash and bizarre passages, with subtle and serene passages as well as screaming and wailing strings and brass and percussion onslaughts. His music is exciting and dramatic and causes the heart, mind and emotions to be engaged. In "Veni Veni Emmanuel' he excels himself. You'll recognise the theme "0 come 0 come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel", but you won't believe what he does with it, particularly the four chords of the "Rejoice, Rejoice" section. Theologically, MacMillan sets out to explore the incarnation by a 25 minute piece in the form of an arch - a blaze of percussion and brass, followed by a quiet middle section, with an energetic frenzy at the end. This quiet middle section uses the "Rejoice" chords to create a texture of sound that resembles a very large number of people quietly praying. This rhythm, which permeates the whole piece, also represents the heartbeats of the Word made flesh. The last few seconds of the piece switch from Christmas to Easter - the coming of Christ was to bring liberation and this is achieved through the resurrection - Christ victorious. This is a brilliant piece of music played convincingly and with great passion by Evelyn Glennie and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, making this release an absolute must. James MacMillan: today Cross Rhythms, tomorrow the world.
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