James MacMillan (born 1959) : Symphony n° 5 “The Great unknown” ; The Sun Danced. Marry Bevan, soprano (The Sun Dance) ; Julie Cooper, soprano ; Kim Porter, viola ; Mark Dobell, tenor ; Ben Davies, bass ; The Sixteen ; Britten Sinfonia ; conductor : Harry Christophers. 1 CD Coro. Recorded in public, at London’s Barbican centre on 14 October 2019. Leaflet in English. Duration : 78:54
“There are people for whom the Beautiful is a personally “, wrote Charles Baudelaire. James MacMillan has this passion for the “beautiful” that he feeds to his faith. His two recent monumental works recorded in a concert appeal to both for their freedom of inspiration and the mastery of their writing.
James MacMillan does not hide his roots in postmodernism, which seeks, above all, the pleasure of the alloys of colors, and it draws on all the aesthetics of the past. From listening to his music, it is clear from a feeling of scattered sound, with the risk of the patchwork and the emphasis without real purpose. As much of the “peril” that the composer avoids.
Composed in 2016, The Sun danced celebrates the apparition of The Virgin to three young shepherds at Fatima, Portugal on 13 October 1917. The vocal writing combines the latin, Portuguese and English. It is the spirit of Stabat Mater recreated on a walking pace throbbing before it explodes the power of the orchestra. The character hymnique so masterfully structured, the work evokes the universe of Kilar and Penderecki. The fusion of styles is impressive and created an effect of procession out of age, paradoxically pagan (the shadows of Daphnis and Chloe Ravel persist). The flexibility of the direction of Christophers is very much in the clarity of the architecture that combines the aria, opera or a concerto for voice, the evocation of plainchant, the monumentality of the frescoes in English from the end of the XIXe century… The willingness narrative is expressed through the science of the orchestration of MacMillan (what a mastery in the textures of the most complex !) that makes it obvious melodic lines, yet in the metamorphosis of a constant. This game shimmers of styles and stamps, ending in a feeling of bliss, captivating.
The Symphony n° 4 MacMillan consisted of a single movement, a veritable “ritual music” juggling aesthetics unheard, between Monteverdi and Birtwistle ! Completed in 2019, the Symphony n° 5 “The Great Unknown “ (in reference to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God) is again a polyphony ” in the wild “. The first movement, Ruah (wind, breath in Hebrew) opens with effects of chuintements prior to the entry of a double choir. Even if the composer refuses any idea of a religious work, the inspiration of great oratorios is involved in. How not to think about the “mysteries” of Arthur Honegger, and then, in the heartbeat rhythm, the heroism mahlérien (Symphonies n° 2 and n° 8) ? Zao (live or water of life) is the sub-title of the second movement. The sound limbo of a piano, the shimmer of strings and flutes introduce the melody haunting. The score alternates between memories of the music of gregorian and oratorio baroque four-part vocal soloists. This page deeply “retinal” closes in the minimalism of its introduction. The final – Igne vel igne – would evoke in any office of the orthodox before the pulsation of the deaf does not lead, on the lands of the Polish composers of the XXe century. The character of enchantment loses, however, continuity expressive when the transitions are too steep. Indeed, multiplying the ideas, James MacMillan invites the polyphony of the Renaissance to the phrases in the neo-classical, not to say mozartiennes the piano. All of this to reveal the substance of a thought that is eminently romantic. Can we hold it against them ? Of course not.
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