COMPOSERS: James MacMillan
LABELS: Challenge Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Macmillan: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel
WORKS: A deep but dazzling darkness, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel
PERFORMER: Gordan Nickolic (violin); Colin Currie (percussion); Netherlands Radio Chamber Phil/James MacMillan
CATALOGUE NO: CC72540
The percussion concerto Veni, Veni Emmanuel was crucial in making James MacMillan’s reputation 20 years ago, and this is Colin Currie’s second recording of it. With the composer himself conducting, it clocks in two minutes longer than Currie’s previous version, and a full four minutes slower than Evelyn Glennie’s premiere recording.
That is significant: MacMillan’s is a strikingly expansive view of his own piece, textures lightened, with a feeling of chamber music-making in many places. There’s more lilt and playfulness to the syncopated rhythms in the ‘hocketing’ section, and a numinous, disembodied quality to the hovering string plainsong in the slow central section. It’s an absorbingly spiritual rendition, and I prefer it to its more explicitly virtuosic predecessors.
Í (A Meditation on Iona) also features percussion, with string accompaniment, including solos for violin and viola. A slicing, combative solo violin is central to A Deep but Dazzling Darkness, a meditation on what MacMillan calls ‘the mysterious connections between compassion and music’. The wind and brass-writing in Veni, Veni stretches the Netherlands players to the limit, but they show conviction.