When Sir Colin Davis was asked to select a composer to write a new work for his 80th birthday he chose James MacMillan, about to celebrate his own 50th birthday. MacMillan had previously considered writing a passion and used the opportunity of the commission to produce a setting based on the Gospel of St John.The result is a highly dramatic passion, fusing MacMillan's own Catholic faith, compositional style and musical influences with the long tradition of settings for the passion of Christ in both the Catholic and Lutheran faiths. In addition to the choir and orchestra, MacMillan uses a small choir of professional singers to provide the narration and a solitary baritone soloist to portray Christus.The work received its première on 27th April 2008 at the Barbican, in London, and follows the LSOLive release of two of James MacMillan's earlier works: The World's Ransoming and The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in January 2008.
This, the 4th, is Rosenberg's first masterwork in the symphonic realm, although some regard the 3rd almost as highly. Perhaps the 5th is his greatest symphony. Many of his works from 1940 on are a combination of chamber opera/oratorio/cantata/symphony/symphonic (as are Lokshin's), but the 4th is the longest yet recorded. It contains an expressive language (that became stringent if not astringent in later years, much as with Braga-Santos), with elements of neo-classical, romantic, post-romantic, and expressionist - at times bombastic but never as thick as the Mahler 8…….Edith Swanek @ Amazon.com
…The performances, sung without a chorus but played with a string complement numbering 4-4-2-2-1, are, if not overwhelming, entirely convincing. The four soloists manage their roles admirably, and the recorded sound is excellent. (…) Incidentally, buried in the notes is an eye-popping statement that Montréal Baroque “has undertaken Bach’s complete cantatas in a pared-down version, with a one-per-part choir, as was the practice in Lutheran Germany of the time.” That would be a first, since all of the other complete and on-going series employ small choirs. There was no mention of boy sopranos.
‘There is nothing like entering a church on a Saturday, standing in the semi-darkness with the scent of incense wafting through the air, lost in deep contemplation searching for an answer to those perennial questions, wherefore, when, whither and why?’ These words, from one of Tchaikovsky’s own letters, sum up the spirit behind the glorious Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op 41. The work is steeped in the Orthodox tradition, the choral writing provides that sense of transparency and simplicity demanded by the text, and the resulting ambience is rich in the manner familiar to Western listeners from works such as Rachmaninov’s Vespers.