JAMES MACMILLAN (b.1959): Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, Northern Skies, Kiss on Wood.
Catalogue Number: 11J114
Label: Deux Elles
Reference: DXL 1115
Description: The striking cello sonatas (both written within the past decade) are self-recommending examples of the form, and deserve wide currency. As is typical of the composer, a wide range of compositional devices is employed; one is always aware of a backbone of tonality, but this doesn't preclude the use of harsh scrapings and clusters, sliding tones and the percussive use of the piano where appropriate. "Synthetic" folk elements are also a common factor, like the naive dance tune in the piano part of the first sonata, overlain with unrelated material from the cello, a chorale-type figure of Shostakovich-like intensity. Kiss on Wood - the wood is that of the Cross - brings out MacMillan's religious fervor, a prime moving force in his compositional inspiration, of course, in an impassioned and eloquent accompanied soliloquy for the cello. Northern Skies are pieces for children, attractive and age-appropriate, but never patronising or condescending; a fine example of a composer simplifying and clarifying the elements of his language without apparent compromise. Henri Demarquette (cello), Graham Scott (piano).