JAMES MACMILLAN (b.1959): MacMillan Series, Vol. 1 - A Deep but Dazzling Darkness for Violin, Ensemble and Tape, Í (A Meditation on Iona) for Strings and Percussion, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel for Percussion and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 12O090
Label: Challenge Classics
Description: A Deep but Dazzling Darkness explores, through contrasts in timbre, pitch and texture, the paradoxical image of the title, referring to a rather unsettling aspect of God's nature as expressed in a poem by the metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan. The work is considerably more experimental than much of MacMillan's output, and much less explicitly tonal, with both the ensemble and the transmuted vocal material in the tape part contributing an ambiguous backdrop against which the active yet tense, acerbic violin part dances like shards of light reflected among looming shadows. The Meditation is not especially meditative, being instead an evocation of the somber, desolate landscape of the Hebridean island, important in the history of Christianity in the British Isles. Although earlier than Darkness, the music is more typical of MacMillan's later style, with a foundation in tonal harmony. Inventive use of percussion adds to the work's atmosphere and sense of ancient ritual. The energetic percussion concerto - the work of a young composer with astonishing mastery of orchestral forces, full of dancing energy and ingeniously revealing the 15th century hymn from which its material is derived as it progresses, is one of MacMillan's most performed works, a level of popularity it amply deserves. Gordan Nikolic (violin), Colin Currie (percussion), Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic; James MacMillan.