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BIS presents two world première recordings: Visitatio Sepulchri for chorus and chamber orchestra (a recording of the version for solo voices already exists) and the a cappella Sun-Dogs. As with so much of MacMillan’s production, both works reflect the composer’s deep involvement with matters of the Roman Catholic faith. The longer work is a setting of a medieval liturgical drama which describes the scene from the New Testament where three women go to visit the Holy Sepulchre on the day after Christ’s crucifixion, and learn that he has risen from the dead. Throughout its five movements, Sun-Dogs swings between light and dark interpretations of canine character and actions, as though asking itself repeatedly where these noble yet savage animals fit within a religious interpretation of the world.
With music that combines rhythmic excitement, raw emotional power and spiritual meditation, James MacMillan (b. 1959) has rapidly established himself as a leading international composer. On BIS, seven previous releases feature instrumental works by him, and now the time has come for the first disc with scores involving voices.
James MacMillan: Sun-Dogs
I. 'I first saw them'
II. 'Domini canes' ('Dogs of the Lord')
III. 'I saw them leading'
IV. 'Sometimes, like Tobias'
V. 'If you turn down the offerings'
James MacMillan: Visitatio Sepulchri (version for 7-part chorus and orchestra)
26th June 2010
“Here’s music of elemental power, rooted in old European harmonies and plainchant, but also infused with Eastern wisdom. Here is passion and pain, and a burning Roman Catholic faith, though the opera’s story also resonates as universal myth. MacMillan conducts Netherlands Radio forces in a vivid
“It is remarkable that a Dutch choir can offer such strong and polished performances of these two choral works by James Macmillan, readily surmounting any problems over singing the English text of the a cappella writing in Sun-Dogs...Altogether a fine coupling of two superb works”
“[Sun Dogs] is a tour de force of choral writing, in which Macmillan is always assured and in the layered execuition of which the Dutch professional choir excels, it sets texts by Michael Symmons Roberts...with memorable results...It would be hard to imagine a more fervent performance than this”