Few living composers communicate with the emotional directness of James MacMillan. It’s no secret that MacMillan’s profound religious belief drives his creativity, but music this powerful conveys a universal message, and the title of his new symphony Le grand Inconnu suggests many possible interpretations.
Imagine a vision too wondrous for eyes alone – ‘the lady more brilliant than the sun’. ‘The lady’ is the Virgin Mary, and The Sun Danced is an ecstatic choral celebration of the Miracle of Fatima commissioned for the Celebration of the Centennial of the Apparitions in Portugal. Mary Bevan is the featured soprano for this, the premiere recording.
Harry Christophers writes: ‘By calling his new Symphony ‘Le grand Inconnu’ James has given himself that freedom to explore the mystery of the subject matter and, with repeated listening, we, the listener, discover more and more within the music… From the barely audible breathing at the start of the symphony to the first forte that is so sudden and ecstatic that it produces one of those heart pounding moments. Everything is drawn together by James into a cornucopia of sheer virtuosity and brilliance.’
The Sun Danced was commissioned by the Shrine of Fatima for the celebration of the Centennial of the Apparitions of Fatima.
Le grand Inconnu was commissioned by Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen.
This is the second album we have recorded with the Britten Sinfonia, MacMillan's Stabat mater was recorded in 2016.
Mary Bevan soprano
'Five stars, then, for a piece I would like to hear again and again... the choral sound blazed at the climaxes, the orchestral colours were from a vivid paintbox.' The Times (on the London premiere of Le grand Inconnu at the Barbican)
‘Amid all this divine play, MacMillan reserves the right to withdraw into pure, radiant choral sonority. The unaccompanied chorus that crowns the second movement is a moment of reflection and culmination so poised and perfect that it’s surely destined for a second life as a standalone motet.’ The Spectator (on the world premiere of Le grand Inconnu at the Edinburgh Festival 2019)
‘Gripping the ears, spearing the heart and moving the soul.’ The Times (on the world premiere of Le grand Inconnu at the Edinburgh Festival 2019)
Track ListingJames MacMillan (b. 1959)
1. The Sun Danced
Symphony No. 5, 'Le grand Inconnu'
2. I - Ruah
3. II - Zao
4. III - Igne vel igne