When Sir Colin Davis was asked to select a composer to write a new work for his 80th birthday he chose James MacMillan, about to celebrate his own 50th birthday. MacMillan had previously considered writing a passion and used the opportunity of the commission to produce a setting based on the Gospel of St John.The result is a highly dramatic passion, fusing MacMillan's own Catholic faith, compositional style and musical influences with the long tradition of settings for the passion of Christ in both the Catholic and Lutheran faiths. In addition to the choir and orchestra, MacMillan uses a small choir of professional singers to provide the narration and a solitary baritone soloist to portray Christus.The work received its première on 27th April 2008 at the Barbican, in London, and follows the LSOLive release of two of James MacMillan's earlier works: The World's Ransoming and The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in January 2008.
The pieces brought together on this CD range widely, from ceremonial works associated with affairs of state to intimate compositions addressing moments of great personal significance. Two of the three pieces by Parry best exemplify this contrast: if I was glad – written for the coronation of Edward VII and premiered in chaotic circumstances – fits into the former category, ‘My soul, there is a country’ (from Songs of Farewell) – composed in the year of his death – belongs in the latter.