Friday, May 02, 2008

St John Passion by James MacMillan


There is an elegantly written review by Damian Thompson in the Catholic Herald of the St John Passion by James MacMillan, which was premiered at the Barbican last Sunday.

I do so enjoy Damian's music reviews, reading them sort of makes up for missing the performance.
Here is an extract:
Elsewhere, there are hints of the refreshing Catholic truculence that we associate with MacMillan: the most piercing fanfares of all celebrate Christ's foundation of the papacy: Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. (Alas, Dr Rowan Williams showed no signs of shifting uneasily in his seat at this moment.)

MacMillan is, as usual, lavish in his use of percussion: the huge chorus was separated from the orchestra by a veritable iconostasis of gongs, drums and tubular bells. Mightiest of all was the repeated double thud of the timpani.

Where had we heard it before? Ah, yes: Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. There were fanfares for the uncommon man, too: shimmering trumpets representing the kingship of Jesus, their proclamation poignantly muted at the mention of the crown of thorns.

6 comments:

ben whitworth said...

On 'Holy Smoke', Damian takes issue with the Guardian reviewer and his crass accusation that the music is 'anti-semitic'. The FT reviewer was just as inept, damning the music because it wasn't 'original' (i.e. avant-garde). Both reviews tell you far more about the prejudices of the reviewer than about the piece. I haven't heard Macmillan's Passion yet, so for all I know, it might be ghastly, but the stinking reviews in the Grauniad and the FT make me suspect that it is actually very good indeed!

bernadette said...

Ben. It isn`t ghastly.It`s really wonderful. Amazon will get it to you in a couple of days. I bought it just before Easter... it`s great. I like James MacM, but din`t at first. I thought he was really overblown and arrogant. He`s not.

bernadette said...

Are you saying it was premiered last week, Fr Blake ? There are recordings of it already available... ?? I got one before Easter.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Bernadette, My mistake, I must a recording of it, I love his use of brass.

Moira said...

You are not wrong, Father.The MacMillan Passion was given its world premiere on Sunday 27 April at the Barbican Centre, performed by the LSO and commissioned by the LSO to celebrate Sir Colin DAvis' 80th birthday.

John said...

Thanks for the information that this is available from Amazon. I rather suspect that I will enjoy it immensely.
JARay