Macmillan: The World’s Ransoming; Cello Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Macmillan
WORKS: The World’s Ransoming; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Christine Pendrill (cor anglais), Raphael Wallfisch (cello); BBC Scottish SO/Osmo Vänskä
James MacMillan’s Easter triptych Triduum, comprising three large-scale orchestral works, the cor anglais concerto The World’s Ransoming, a Cello Concerto and the Symphony Vigil, was given its Scottish premiere in 1997 by the BBC Scottish SO under Osmo Vänskä, the same artists who perform the works in these world premiere recordings. Listening to the trilogy, one steps decisively into MacMillan’s serious, heartfelt sound-world: the three works are contemplations of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, expressed in music of searing intensity and extreme contrasts. One may feel that some of the effects MacMillan uses – the overlaid screaming brass fanfares, the extensive use of percussion – are excessive, but they are contained within a tautly argued, tightly structured whole, and possessed of a thrillingly direct – and profoundly affecting – musicality. I defy anyone not to be moved by this music, whether for its considerable emotional impact or purely the artistry of its musical structures.


The solo performers are remarkably eloquent, both in Pendrill’s playing of the sinuous, richly coloured cor anglais lines, and Wallfisch’s often belligerent contributions to the Cello Concerto. Vänskä proves an ideally incisive conductor for this often anguished music and directs assured and committed performances from the BBC Scottish SO, giving it full rein in MacMillan’s densely textured climaxes but also expertly pacing the slowly evolving larger forms.