Wells Cathedral Choir / Matthew Owens

MacMillan: Jubilate Deo; Tremunt videntes angeli; Le tombeau de Georges Rouault; Etc.

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The music on this disc of compositions by Scotland's James MacMillan, all sacred and all but one choral, is given nearly in reverse chronological order, which actually works well: the more diatonic idiom of his earlier pieces gives the listener space to relax after the more dissonant and above all more dynamically challenging works written since the year 2000. The dynamics are really spectacular, and the album can be recommended purely as an ideal meeting place of the talents of composer, performer, and engineering team. The Wells Cathedral Choir under Matthew Owens, along with organist Jonathan Vaughn, are working on the choir's home ground, and they achieve total clarity in the long stretches of quiet, dissonant music with which many of MacMillan's pieces begin. Eventually they coalesce into more stable music for the choir. Most remarkable in the level of tension achieved is the opening Jubilate Deo, dedicated to a since-executed Death Row prison inmate whom the composer befriended in Texas. But the choir's musical control is impressive throughout, and the album provides not only a good introduction to one of the most rigorous and yet most appealing contemporary choral composers of the British Isles (if you're getting tired of John Rutter, try this), but also to the whole world of British cathedral music recorded on the Hyperion label, the organization that does it best. Highly recommended.

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