Macmillan Padre Pio’s Praye

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Macmillan,R Panufnik,Todd
LABELS: Coro
WORKS: Macmillan: Padre Pio’s Prayer; The Lamb has come for us from the House of David; On the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin; A New Song; R Panufnik: Prayer; Stay with me & Todd: Among Angels; Stay with me
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: COR 16071

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As the quantity of James MacMillan’s church music on compact disc increases, the more it seems absolutely central to his prolific compositional output. That’s unsurprising, really: MacMillan’s own devout Catholicism gives a special charge and authority to his religious settings, and his treatment of the prayer by Padre Pio leading off this new collection is no exception.

A yearning, upwardly aspiring melodic line, chromatically tinted, is the piece’s lingua franca; extra glints of insight are etched in by the organ’s distantly twirling arabesques and jagged interjections. The Sixteen’s performance here comes across as mightily assured and ardently convincing.

Two other settings of the Padre Pio prayer complete the backbone of the programme. Roxanna Panufnik’s uses double choir plus tenor and soprano soloists, but for all that lacks the pregnant spiritual drama of MacMillan’s treatment. Will Todd’s Stay with me has piano accompaniment, is often in unison, and is harmonically more conservative.

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It makes a sincere if inevitably more modest impression than the other works collected here. His triptych Among Angels, for two harps and choir, strikes me as a much more interesting and inventive composition. The Sixteen again excel both in terms of technique and expressivity, and while the music on this disc is slightly uneven in quality, the contribution of this magnificent body of singers is uniformly excellent. Overall, then, highly recommended. Terry Blain