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Paul McCARTNEY (b.1942)
Ecce Cor Meum (2001) (Spiritus [12:00]; Gratia [10:50]; Interlude (Lament) [3:56]; Musica [15:14]; Ecce Cor Meum [14:50])
London Voices; Boys of Magdalen College Choir; Oxford, Boys of King’s College Choir/Ben Parry
Kate Royal (soprano); Colm Carey (organ)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Gavin Greenaway
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London. 2006, DDD
EMI CLASSICS 3704242 [56:51]

 


This is a nicely produced disc, containing glossy photos, the text, and a lengthy introduction about how McCartney came to write the work, which was eight years in the making. It was originally commissioned by the President of Magdalen College for a new concert hall, and was intended to be “something equivalent to Handel’s Messiah” – an ambitious brief! It received a performance in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre in 2001 but McCartney was not fully satisfied with the piece and continued refining it. I must confess to an inner groan when I read his words “the idea is that what I’ll leave behind me will be music, and I may not be able to tell you everything I feel, but you’ll be able to feel it when you listen to my music” - perhaps because it boded a too emotional outpouring.

Ecce Cor Meum has a promising, plain-chant-like opening, which builds with the addition of more voices and instruments to a grandiose, almost filmic, but quite powerful, climax. In an abrupt change of mood, snappier rhythms dominate, along with the soprano and chorus in the line “Take love away”. This is, to my ear, a rather unconvincing move, leading, as it does to a sound too akin to the world of musicals.

The second movement, Gratia, is beautiful in a slightly candy-floss manner, but again has the overtones of a musical. A brief wordless interlude follows with an, at times, almost Delian “aah-ing” in the chorus and a sinuous oboe line; the oboe is played by David Theodore. Musica is an intense movement that combines a number of elements, influences and sounds, from Handel to Tavener. This builds to a sombre climax before the final, eponymous, movement. This opens with a floating melody in the soprano before a very sweet “Ecce Cor Meum” from the trebles, joined soon by the rest of the chorus. The style then changes once more with the incongruous introduction of jazzy light music before a bit of a mad organ interlude. The piece ends joyously in something of a riot of sound.

The work has many good bits, although one feels that it does not hang together as a whole – there are too many sudden changes of direction, too many contesting styles, not enough evidence of one over-arching, masterful “voice”. It is well performed. An ‘interesting’ disc.

Em Marshall

see also Review by David Dunsmore

 

 


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