Weir, Ads, Grier, Harbison, Macmillan, RŸtti, Bingham, Maxwell Davies, Goodall, etc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ades,Bingham,etc,Goodall,Grier,Harbison,Macmillan,Maxwell Davies,Rátti,Weir
LABELS: BBC Music
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Illuminare Ð Carols for a New Millennium
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: BBC Singers/Stephen Cleobury; Robert Quinney (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: WMEF 0063-2
The range of styles here is wide: from Spike Jones/King’s Singers jollity in John Harle’s ‘Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding’ to austere meditation in Peter Maxwell Davies’s ‘One Star at Last’. So, if ‘Carols for a New Millennium’ is an indication of the way things are heading (a big if), what does this disc tell us about the music of the new age? The answer seems to be that it will be a lot like the music of the previous one, reflected in various kinds of distorting mirror – as for instance in Judith Weir’s ‘Illuminare Jerusalem’, with its wittily evasive harmonic twists and turns. A lot of this music glances backwards: John Tavener – typically – to the choral chant of Orthodox Church, Francis Grier to Warlock and Delius, Jerzy Kornowicz (fleetingly) to the taped collage effects of the Sixties – though the musical style of his ‘Oczekiwanie’ (‘Waiting’) is warmly approachable; Harle’s piece even comes with faked 78 rpm surface-noise. Sensation-seekers will be disappointed, but I could imagine one or two of these miniatures fitting cosily into the yearly broadcast Christmas service from King’s College, Cambridge: Steve Martland’s invigorating ‘Make We Joy’, John Harbison’s finely crafted and moving ‘O magnum mysterium’, or Roxanna Panufnik’s ‘Sleep little Jesus’ – an old Polish carol enriched with subtly unpredictable harmonies. The BBC Singers approach all these pieces with their usual expertise and dedication, and the recordings generally balance atmosphere and clarity to good effect. Stephen Johnson

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