also available Digital download: 00946
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Well, this really is
a refreshing surprise! A wonderful record
in almost all respects and from one
of the master composers of popular music
of the twentieth century.
About eight years ago
the then Master of Magdalen College,
Anthony Smith CBE asked Paul McCartney
to write "a choral piece which
could be sung by young people the world
over - something to rival Handel’s "Messiah".
Not long after this Paul’s wife Linda
died of cancer. Thus the original request
and reason for this splendid work became
A recent review of
this work in "The Gramophone"
[David Gutman: Awards 2006 issue]
has been deeply critical of this work
but I really wonder whether the reviewer
has listened closely or read the notes.
After all he questioned who the work
was for and why the work had been written?
Admittedly this is in a once-respected
magazine that has chosen yet again
a recording of Mahler - and he’s
a composer who really does spin out
ideas - as their Disc of the Year! He
also brings up the hoary old chestnut
of ex-Beatles being unable to write
music up to former glories. Pleeese!
…The Beatles split up thirty-six
years ago and all the members have produced
very good music - and admittedly some
dross - since.
This is certainly light
years from the embarrassment of Deep
Purple’s piece with orchestra or the
doodling of Emerson Lake and Palmer
thirty years ago. In fact I think that
this work may be adversely affected
by being written by a composer branded
with the term "popular". It
certainly compares well to Tavener and
Ecce Cor Meum is
clearly going to appeal to listeners
of "Classic FM" as much as
those of Radio 3 but I love its youthful
positive nature and melodic invention.
Hans Keller pointed out that Bartók
was able to bring a fresh approach to
quartets because he wasn’t a string
player. I think this is true of McCartney
here. I don’t find the piece Victorian
at all nor is the first movement "Spiritus"
overtly reminiscent of Brahms or other
nineteenth century composers. Paul McCartney
has picked up from the choir of Magdalen
- my old school - the sound of the choral
tradition and given it a modern setting
using his genius for producing accessible
melody. In "Gratia" you recognize
the writer of "Yesterday"
but there’s resilient steel amongst
the emotion. I can see this becoming
a much-loved piece and why not? Not
all great music needs to cause the brow
to furrow or leave the listener emotionally
drained. The soprano Kate Royal is quite
superb here and let no one dare mention
the - to my ears - fearfully predictable
Lloyd-Webber! In the "Interlude"
David Theodore’s oboe is splendidly
evocative and this appears at just the
right moment; a pastoral symphony for
2006? As someone who has lost, a year
ago, a much-loved sister like Linda
of cancer this is very touching and
appropriate to a strong-minded and highly
principled human being. "Musica"
shows off the boys’ voices splendidly
and is again in a contrasting mood to
what has come before: "JOY".
Good string playing too! The last movement
entitled "Ecce Cor Meum" is
very inventive with the soprano first
then the choir and the marvelous organ
played very well by Colm Carey. The
words avoid cloying sentimentality and
all concerned bring this piece, with
inventive melody at every turn, to a
I recommend this to
all with open ears and minds and hope
to hear this work at the College I walked
past for seven years on my way to school!
David R Dunsmore