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But a sense of mystery informs the whole work. In brief, MacMillan achieves not simply a setting of sacred words, but an evocation of Catholic liturgy, ceremony and architecture, much as John Tavener does within the Orthodox tradition, though more succinct, and none the worse for that.

The shorter works are equally evocative. The disc opens with a setting of joyful words from Psalm 96: O sing unto the Lord a new song. The vocal setting is distanced and restrained, (angelic, perhaps?) but the affirmative organ peroration leaves us in no doubt that God is praised on earth as well as in heaven [listen -- track 1, 3:36-4:40].

The single work for organ, Gaudiamus in loci pace is very much the distinctive voice of MacMillan, but it inhabits and evokes the same world as Messiaen's Le Banquet Celeste, complete with birdsong-like pipings above the basic chant. Intentionally or not, we are reminded of another great musical explorer of spiritual mysteries [listen -- track 10, 0:00-0:59].

All the music is performed to perfection -- by which I mean that we are allowed to experience the larger spiritual dimensions the composer evokes -- by the Westminster forces under Martin Baker. Hyperion give us all we have come to expect of them in terms of engineering and presentation. James Whitbourn's notes are excellent. This is a great recording of what, I dare to suggest, will come to be recognised as great music.

Copyright © 17 February 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK







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