MACMILLAN Tenebrae Responsories
The combination of Westminster Cathedral Choir and MacMillan is irresistible. We are drawn immediately into their complicity by the jaw-dropping Tu es Petrus, written for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to London in 2010. It perfectly enshrines the Roman Catholic conception of the role of the papacy and is appropriately magnificent. Its simultaneous celebratory character and clear rootedness in liturgical tradition make it far more than a one-off firework.
Quite different are the extraordinary Tenebrae Responsories, complex explorations of the Passion of Christ with, once again, deep links to Catholic liturgical tradition. There are excellent recordings of this sequence by Cappella Nova and The Sixteen, but inevitably the sound of the Westminster choristers adds something unique and the building’s resonance buoys up MacMillan’s arching lines (carefully shaped under Baker’s direction) and dazzling, often bitingly dissonant chordal pillars.
The most striking of the smaller works are the lovely Benedictus Deus (2009) and Ave maris stella (2011). A curiosity is the early Edinburgh Te Deum, written while the composer was still a student of Kenneth Leighton – it shows. The performances throughout are outstanding, and beautifully recorded.