RECORDS / Classical

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The Independent Culture
James MacMillan: The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, Tryst/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Maksymiuk (Koch 3105 02). Not every new work in the Proms survives the cheering, but this one did. The appearance of this substantial semi- programmatic orchestral score in the 1990 Proms season gave MacMillan a sudden but enduring profile as one of the younger generation of British composers best equipped to reach a broad audience without compromising the quality of his language. The Confession has a chastening appeal that says as much about MacMillan (a thoughtfully passionate Scottish Christian Socialist) as about its subject matter (witch-burning in the Reformation). It strides forward on big, openly insistent rhythms that collate memories of Messiaen, Stravinsky and Copland. But the principal quality of the piece is the string writing, which is disarmingly beautiful and surprisingly well delivered by the original interpreters who repeat their Prom triumph on this disc.

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