Macmillan, Cornysh, Carver & Ramsey

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COMPOSERS: Carver & Ramsey,Cornysh,Macmillan
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: An Eternal Harmony
WORKS: Music
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
Mindful perhaps of Vatican II’s behest that ‘composers, animated by the Christian spirit, should accept that it pertains to their vocation to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures’ (Sacrosanctum concilium 118, 1963), James MacMillan has written not only several effective folk Masses but also more reflective works connecting unashamedly with the church’s legacy of high art music. Of these, O bone Jesu, commissioned by The Sixteen and completed earlier this year, may be his finest to date. Fervent repetitions of the name of Jesus imply his private devotion, and in its spirit and textural detail the piece suggests both its inspiration, Robert Carver’s 19-part setting of the same text, and the wider tradition of music associated with this post-compline antiphon, for example, by Robert Fayrfax. His Magnificat, rather than four anthems by the 17th-century Robert Ramsey, would have made for a no less interesting coupling, given the discs’s theme of music at the late 15th-century Scottish and English courts. But it’s good to have Cornysh’s majestic ‘Salve regina’ from the near-contemporary Eton Choirbook, in an account first released, like the Carver, on Collins. Performances are strong and clear, with a pleasing emphasis on the thrust of polyphonic lines. Nicholas Williams