Scotland's James MacMillan is one of the few composers on the British scene who is threading the needle between crossover styles and the contemporary hard core. His works, mostly sacred and motivated by his own Catholic faith, draw on Renaissance a cappella choral styles and are contrapuntally very accomplished. They open with transparent thematic material but are quite intricately developed. Strong engineering and a smaller, well drilled choir both assist his music, and it gets both in this selection of pieces performed by the Scottish choir Cappella Nova. The choir sprang from some of the same origins as MacMillan himself; he has worked with them for many years, conducts the Mass setting heard here (a Missa Brevis, lacking a Credo), and contributes a fascinating interview to the booklet that will be of great interest to musicians working in this field. Most of the music here has not been recorded until now. The result is a collection that will satisfy MacMillan fans and perhaps make some new ones. Sample the Domine non secundum peccata nostra (track 10), the sole accompanied piece. It is accompanied by a single violin, and its economical use, with one section announced by trenchant pizzicatos, is typical of MacMillan's way of thinking. The engineering team from Linn, working in the Church of the Holy Rude in the small Scottish town of Stirling, achieves spectacular clarity (the "Holy Rude," also spelled Holyrood, is the Christian cross in case you were wondering).
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim