As James MacMillan celebrates his 50th birthday he here conducts his large-scale, complex work, The Quickening coupled with the symphonic suite The Sacrifice: Three Interludes, taken from his opera, The Sacrifice, a work based on a medieval Welsh tale and focusing on issues of love and conflict. Co-commissioned by the BBC Proms and the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Quickening sets poetry by MacMillan’s frequent collaborator Michael Symmons Roberts. Hailed as some of the most distinguished writing since that of Benjamin Britten, the powerfully imaginative score explores the themes of birth, new life and new impulses, but as MacMillan says, it also has its dark side out of which hope is glimpsed. Joining the BBC Philharmonic is the Hilliard Ensemble, who premiered the work at the BBC Proms, accompanied by the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Youth Chorus.
MacMillan was awarded the 2008 Royal Philharmonic Society Opera and Music Theatre Award The Sacrifice following its premiere in September 2007 by Welsh National Opera. As did Britten in the now-famous Four Sea Interludes from his opera Peter Grimes, MacMillan uses the Interludes as opportunities to withdraw from and reflect on the action, and he says, ‘the orchestra provides another dimension to the narrative and to the drama, which allows the imagination to travel deeper or in a different direction.’
James MacMillan is one of the UK’s leading contemporary composers, and several of his earlier compositions are available on Chandos under his direction, including The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie (Classic FM Award winner), and The Berserking.