The London Philharmonic Orchestra has released the premiere recording of James MacMillan's Christmas Oratorio, conducted by Mark Elder. This major full-evening work explores the Nativity across a wide range of aspects, from childlike wonder, through spiritual reflection to powerful drama.
The premiere recording of James MacMillan's Christmas Oratorio has been making waves since its release on the London Philharmonic Orchestra's own label (LPO 0125). The Times described it as "the most rousing musical present currently on offer", and the album rose rapidly to reach No.3 in the UK Specialist Classical Chart, a major achievement for a new contemporary work.
The Christmas Oratorio was recorded live at the work's UK premiere at the Royal Festival Hall in London in December 2021, featuring soloists Lucy Crowe and Roderick Williams and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir conducted by Mark Elder. This performance followed the world premiere in Amsterdam in January 2021 in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series at the Royal Concertgebouw Hall, conducted by the composer. The work's Australian premiere is scheduled by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for 16 December 2023.
"...this oratorio seems exceptional in the directness of its musical language and ability to leave listeners of every stripe bathed in an uplifting glow...As for Elder, the orchestra and the superb LPO choir — all of them seem on fire, confident in attack, secure in the knowledge that MacMillan has written a masterpiece of uncommon and piercing power...
"The ears are immediately gripped by the folk-carol twang and twinkling celesta in the opening sinfonia, the first of four orchestral movements threaded through a vocal tapestry mixing Gospel passages with Catholic ritual, metaphysical poetry and a Gaelic lullaby. Tone and manner equally keep shifting: you get choral chanting, scurrying strings, blistering brass chords, chortling winds, sweet simplicity and thunderous violence, with ecstasy radiating at the close."
> Listen to Christmas Oratorio on Spotify
Forthcoming MacMillan choral releases include the first recording of his anthem Who shall separate us?, commissioned for the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II. Voces8 has recorded the work for a Decca album of music across the Queen's reign, released on 3 December.
> View our MacMillan Choral Guide
New MacMillan works premiered over the coming season include Her tears fell with the dews at even written for the Pittsburgh Symphony under Manfred Honeck on 17 March and Fiat Lux for soprano, baritone, mixed chorus, organ and orchestra with five performances in California by the Pacific Symphony and Chorale in California conducted by Carl St. Clair between 15 and 20 June.
> Further information on Work: Christmas Oratorio
Photo: Marc Marnie
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