JAMES MACMILLAN (b.1959): Sun-Dogs for Chorus, Visitation Sepulchri for Chorus and Chamber Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 06L111
Description: Sun-Dogs of 2006 sets poetry of Michael Symons Roberts, full of complex symbolism surrounding the ambiguous role of dogs in mediæval European and Middle-Eastern cultures as precursors of Christianity. The choral writing is strikingly original - basically tonal but embellished with vocal effects, complex heterophonic textures and unusual rhythmic devices. The 'sacred opera' Visitatio Sepulchri depicts the central mystery of Christian faith: the redemptive sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. The opening orchestral sequence is violently expressive, setting the scene by briefly recapitulating the events of the crucifixion; even here, though, MacMillan's language remains tonal, though with a good deal of dissonance and percussive aggression. This gives way to elaborated chorale textures in both orchestra and subsequently chorus, with modal inflections derived both from the composer's Scottish heritage and his interest in Middle-Eastern music. The eloquent second scene depicts the empty tomb in radiantly triumphant music that grows out of a sepulchral, ambiguous beginning; Scene 3 climaxes the work in a magnificent setting of the Te Deum, inflected by vernacular elements in the highly original choral textures. Texts included. Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic; James MacMillan, Celso Antunes (Sun-Dogs).