MACMILLAN: A New Song; Mass; Christus vincit; Gaudeamus in loci pace; Seinte Mari moder
milde; A Child's Prayer; Changed.
Andrew Reid (organ), Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker cond.
HYPERION CDA 67219 (DDD) TT: 66:37
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Scottish composer James Macmillan writes music inspired by his Roman Catholicism. In the liner notes to this recording, he claims that his faith has hindered acceptance of his music among heathens and non-believers. I happen to be a heathen, but to a large extent I like his music. On the other hand, I have encountered works by him (notably, The Seven Last Words) which I haven't cared for, using criteria which have little to do with faith or the lack thereof. The music simply bored me. I doubt whether my sudden conversion to the Catholic Church would make these works any better for me.
Now that we've gotten the nonsense out of the way, what about this
disc? Many have lumped Macmillan in with the so-called "Holy Minimalists," but I
disagree. To me, his music has at least as much in common with Messiaen, as the organ work
Gaudeamus in loce pace makes clear. Other elements make their way into the music, including plainchant and Celtic folk
song. It's a very powerful cocktail, which fits admirably Macmillan's seriousness of purpose, for Macmillan is above all a religious artist, largely free of easy
sentimentality. One senses very strongly a tough mind at work.
However, he also creates beauty, which lets a guy like me in. Macmillan takes huge musical risks with his
works. Often he shuns development in favor of repetition. If you're going to repeat, the basic material had better be worth
repeating. Sometimes a work misses for me because that basic matter simply doesn't interest me once, let alone
twice. Make no mistake, however, I like very much indeed all the works on the CD program.
S.G.S. (May 2001)