MUSIC / Double Play: Visions of a new beginning

MACMILLAN: Veni, Veni,

Emmanuel. After the Tryst.

'. . . as others see us . . .'

Three Dawn Rituals. Untold

Evelyn Glennie, Scottish

CO / Saraste, MacMillan

(RCA Catalyst 09026-61916-2)

THE coup de theatre at the close of Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, James MacMillan's so-called percussion concerto, isn't mentioned in his detailed programme notes. MacMillan knows the value of surprise; he's a natural dramatist - no bad thing for a composer.

In the case of the 'concerto', theatricality is first and last the name of the game, and he has quite a leading lady in Evelyn Glennie. The visual impact of her balletic, mallet-wielding exhibition is a considerable loss, though one is compensated by the immediacy, the keener profiling of the percussion writing, a restless spirit of exuberant drummings and hushed metallic musings carrying us (and MacMillan's omnipresent plainchant) irresistibly towards the glad tidings - an Easter Day panoply of bells.

There, I've given the game away - but only because this protracted resonance might have swelled for longer here (as it did at last year's Prom premiere). After the Tryst tells you a lot about MacMillan's excitable, never-passive lyricism; '. . . as others see us . . .' is a delicious mis-match of the ecclesiatical and the jazzy. MacMillan is always, in some sense or other, 'on stage' as a composer, anxious that we join him; it seems odd, uneasy even, just sitting at home listening.

EDWARD SECKERSON

FOR me there is a lingering problem with Veni, Veni, Emmanuel. It can be fabulous to watch - as anyone who has seen Glennie hurling herself around the ranks of drums, gongs and bells will testify. But with just the music to go on, I find a lot of the percussion writing surprisingly unmemorable. The orchestral invention is well up to MacMillan's highest standards: ecstatic brass chants, spiky dance figures, the transformations of the Veni, Veni plainchant ingenious but easy to follow. Against this, the percussion writing can sound more like hyperactive decoration than a leading musical voice.

I still think this is a very encouraging issue. Looking at trends in new music today it sometimes seems that arid simplicity has replaced manic complexity. At his best, MacMillan has an instinct for balancing the simple and the ingenious, or for throwing them into confrontation. There's much more invention in his music than in Gorecki or in all but the best Tavener, but the basic idea is just as clear - and the feeling behind it is strong and directly expressed. Production and performances here are outstanding. If future Catalyst issues are on this level it should be a really useful label - though I hope BMG won't stick exclusively to what the booklet calls the 'accessible'.

STEPHEN JOHNSON

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS:

Sancta Civitas.

Dona nobis pacem

Soloists, London Symphony

Chorus and Orch / Hickox

(EMI CDC 7 54788-2)

HERE is Vaughan Williams in the wake of war, haunted by the past, wary of the future. In both these pieces, the last word is one of uncertainty, a shadow of doubt falling across gleaming visions of new beginnings.

Spiritually the two works make natural bedfellows, materially they are opposites. Walt Whitman's big-boned, emotive verse lifts Dona nobis pacem on to a more dynamic level of engagement. And this is quite a performance, resoundingly engineered. LSO bugles and percussion zealously heed the summons of 'Beat] beat] drums]', the hellish onomatopoeic clatter of Whitman's words coming through with alarming clarity from the chorus. Bryn Terfel, caring for every well-placed syllable, further enhances VW's beautiful setting of 'Reconciliation', and Yvonne Kenny speaks for us all with her plangent petitions.

Sancta Civitas is more elusive: mystical, remote by design. Even so, a few longueurs over Babylon are as nothing compared to the austere beauty of the solo violin tracing our path to the Holy City. And there's a genuinely sensational moment of light as the St Paul's choristers proclaim the Trinity from on high. ES

IF record catalogues are anything to go by, Vaughan Williams's symphonies are going through a major rehabilitation at the moment. Why not the choral works? Coming back to these two ambitious choral-orchestral pieces I think I know why. There's some wonderful music; the weird, hushed opening of Sancta Civitas tingles with promise; Dona nobis pacem has moments of barbarity and anguish that wouldn't be out of place in the Sixth Symphony.

But beside these inspirations are stretches where the invention sags and the all-too-familiar VW fingerprints cover the canvas - bald, triadic choral writing, or the pallid modal march-tune at 'Dirge for Two Veterans'. The performances are splendid: firm, assertive choral singing, powerful, atmospheric orchestral support (beautifully recorded), impassioned prayers for peace from the soprano Yvonne Kenny, and baritone solos from Bryn Terfel that send tiny claws running up the spine. SJ

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?