James MacMillan: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel - MacMillan Series Vol. 1
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Veni, veni, Emmanuel - MacMillan series vol. 1
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The world premiere recording of James MacMillan's violin concerto A Deep But Dazzling Darkness, played by Gordan Nikolic, opens the first disc in a new Challenge Classic series in which the composer conducts the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic. It is heard alongside one of MacMillan's most popular works, the remarkable concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel and Í (A Meditation on Iona) for strings and percussion, both performed by fellow Scot Colin Currie as percussion soloist.
James MacMillan, one of today's most prolific, communicative and successful living composers, is also internationally active as a conductor. He became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic at the end of 2010, and this disc is the first fruit of an initial three-CD recording project.
MacMillan's musical language is flooded with influences from his Scottish heritage, Catholic faith, social conscience, and close connection with Celtic folk music, blended with influences from Far Eastern, Scandinavian and Eastern European music. He first became internationally recognised after the extraordinary success of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in 1990 at the BBC Proms - where Veni, Veni, Emmanuel was also premiered, by Evelyn Glennie, in 1992. The concerto has since been performed more than 400 times.
Colin Currie has been the driving force behind new percussion repertoire for more than a decade. Forthcoming commissions include new concertos written for him by James MacMillan, Steve Reich, and Louis Andriessen, and he's premiered recent works by Simon Holt, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Jennifer Higdon, Alexander Goehr, and Elliott Carter.
The Serbian violinist Gordan Nikolic gave the premiere of A Deep But Dazzling Darkness at LSO St Luke's in March 2003. A commission from the London Symphony Orchestra, it is cast in a single 25-minute movement and notes the composer "offers contrasts in light and shade, celebration and foreboding". The Times said it is "...tremendously dramatic, even by the standards of a composer whose mode of expression rarely falls short of volcanic... the work's subtext is music's power to comfort in times of darkness or conflict... "
Recent major works by MacMillan include his St John Passion, and a Violin Concerto for Vadim Repin for which Netherlands Radio was a co-commissioner. His one-act chamber opera Clemency, first heard lat year at the Royal Opera House 2, will be staged by Scottish Opera at the Edinburgh Festival this summer, and Credo will be premiered at the BBC Proms.
"He is proving a conductor of daunting ability." - The Sunday Times
Personnel: Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, James MacMillan (conductor), Colin Currie (percussion), Gordan Nikolic (violin)
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The cd presents three works played by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic with the direction of J. MacMillan: the concerto for violin, ensemble and tape "A Deep but Dazzling Darkness" in first world première recording with G. Nikolic soloist, "Í (A Meditation on Iona)" for sting orchestra and percussion, a work that reached its second recording, and the famous concerto for percussion and orchestra "Veni, veni, Emmanuel" with C. Currie, percussion.
Colin Currie already registered "Veni, veni, Emmanuel" for the label Naxos and this successful concert, that boasts about 400 performances worldwide, now reached, including the present, three different recordings and one of them, that performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra directed by J.P. Saraste with Evelyn Glennie soloist, the percussionist whom the concerto was composed for, is yet arrived to its second reissue. MacMillan's direction of his own concerto for percussion and orchestra gives it an unheard freshness unbalancing the acoustic equilibrium of the work favouring decisively the percussions' section. The result is really intriguing: it was given a resolute dark vein until the final coda enlightenment realised by the tubular bells.
"Í (A Meditation on Iona)" uses also a big amount of percussion instruments that links in some way this work with "Veni, veni, Emmanuel". MacMillan presents us a highly nervous and dramatic performance where spiritual-ecstasy and inner-distress moments alternate creating lights & shades of uncommon violence and effect that suit very well the composer's idea to paint in music the landscape of Iona island, where St. Columba lived and died in 597.
"A Deep but Dazzling Darkness" is a violin concerto atypic in MacMillan's ouvre indeed: is quite strange the use of the tape by our Scottish composer and this work, in my opinion, is somewhat influenced by the Fourth Symphony by Sir Michael Tippett. The concerto is very interesting both for the use of shrill cries registered in the tape both for the employment of the French melody "L'homme armé" that give to the work a rather bitter-sweet taste. This concerto, in any case, is the most Gothic and dark piece presented in this cd and MacMillan underlines again the tone-colour and tempo contrasts followed by the violin exquisitely played by Gordan Nikolic.