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.
see also Review
by David Dunsmore