‘One of the most gifted British composers of her generation.’
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW
There is no rose
‘Taking the 15th-century macaronic text, McDowall has set the words within a sumptuous harmonic frame, starting with the sound of a flattened seventh and sharpened fourth at the opening which seem to hover mysteriously and beautifully throughout the piece before returning here again in a magical, hushed conclusion.”
Joy Hill, CHOIR AND ORGAN
‘McDowall brings a beguiling mix of sensitivity to text, exquisitely crafted lines and a real sense of place, space and history … the opening sonorities are both satisfying and deeply affecting.’
Phillip Cooke, OPINION
★★★★★ ‘McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem is a masterpiece. The performance here is compelling and 70 Degrees below Zero forms a perfect musical coupling…especially in such a ﬁne performance as this… The performances are uniformly excellent, as is the presentation of this important release.’
‘A highly impressive work’
‘McDowall’s radiant anthem sets the words of Puritan separatist William Bradford as he recounts the voyageof the Mayﬂower. The work dextrously captures both the sway of the ocean and the relief of reachingﬁrm ground, and this ﬁne interpretation features a beautiful solo line from soprano Alexandra Kidgell.’ – BBC Music Magazine
GRAMOPHONE Classical Music Awards; Choral Category 2023 Shortlist
A powerful programme of thought-provoking works, both timely and timeless, the impeccable performances by SANSARA drawing us in and holding us throughout the deeply reﬂective journey.
GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE, EDITOR’S CHOICE
The Christmas Album, including Cecilia McDowall’s Trinity Triptych (O Magnum Mysterium | O Nata Lux | O Virgo Virginum)
Christopher Gabbitas, conductor
★★★★ Cecilia McDowall may be best known for her choral compositions, but this British composer obviously knows her way round the organ console as well. That much is clear from the opening stretch of Celebration, this collection’s ﬁrst track, with its energising mix of brilliant treble ﬁreworks and forceful bass underpinnings.
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
‘A moving cantata that tells a remarkable story. Kevin Crossley-Holland and Cecilia McDowall have avoided the temptation to create something overly melodramatic, though the story could easily have led to thatapproach. The music’s sparse textures underline the terror experienced by Syrian refugees driven from their homes by war. Somehow, confronting all that this girl has gone through, her courage and her sense of hope arethe qualities that come through.’
FANFARE MAGAZINE USA
‘The massed forces of Bristol Choral Society are joined by a children’s choir – the stunning Bristol Youth Choir – and a solo soprano in Cecilia McDowall’s contemplation of the human lifespan and our place in theuniverse. A Time for all Seasons is an evocative cantata that explores the complexities of the human condition. ’
Performed with great aplomb by Norman Harper, Church bells beyond the stars is a bright, spirited toccata, inspired by the metaphysical writings of George Herbert. It evokes the sound of pealing bells,capturing the melodic changes and rhythmic irregularities characteristic of church bell-ringing.
HYPERION and RSCM
Recorded by the superb Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conductor Stephen Layton, the Hyperion label releases a CD of Cecilia McDowall’s sacred choral music on 2 April.
‘Most arresting is O Oriens, a beautiful setting, its shimmering tone clusters and delicious suspensions evoking the morning star as it slowly rises through the heavens.’
‘I’d not heard Cecilia McDowall’s I know that my Redeemer liveth before. It must have been a considerable challenge to set a text immortalised by Handel in Messiah but she was not daunted by the task and produced a piece that is beautiful and expertly crafted.’
‘This is a poignant and moving musical reflection on the death of Edith Cavell, executed as an alleged traitor by the German army in 1915. Not only is the piece moving but I think it also captures the dignity displayed by Cavell.’
‘All the music is radiant, all of it is unexpected… and comes from a choir that’s gone from being a minor player in Oxbridge choral music to becoming one of the most exciting groups in its area’
‘Chamber works (‘Dream City’ and the grippingly moving ‘The case of the unanswered wire’) bring the musicianly Tippett Quartet into play on this disc which deserves to be part of any collection representing the best, most communicative contemporary music.’
‘All the music is radiant, all of it is unexpected… and comes from a choir that’s gone from being a minor player in Oxbridge choral music to becoming one of the most exciting groups in its area.’
‘The sonorous bass pedal which opens Cecilia McDowall’s O Oriens is illuminated from above by an aurora of shifting harmonies, creating shimmering waves of sound-light. It’s a truly magical setting of one of the Advent antiphons, and the precision and focus it received here enhanced its transcendental glow.’
‘The choir has an absolutely stunning sound, aided by the marvelous acoustic provided while recording in France. The results are of the highest quality. If you love choral music, you’ll love this.’
‘A richly rewarding disc of 20th-century a cappella motets … mock medievalisms are a distinctive feature of Cecilia McDowall’s votive antiphon Am redemptoris mater.’
‘More substantial is Mein blaues Klavier, Cecilia McDowall taking the poem by Else Lasker-Schüler as inspiration for a forceful study with a plaintive lament as it core.’
In Buenos Aires, birthplace of the tango, there is an old tango hall called Salon Argentina. A faded sign hangs over the stage: ‘Salon Argentina – not just a place but somewhere to make friends.’ In the hall the dancers move under a dim light in grim, passionate embrace. In this homage to Piazzolla, the tango opens with an air of desolation and loneliness, but then gradually gathering itself into a dance of defiance.
Inspired by the intense imagery of Lorca’s poetry, The Moon Dances evokes contrasting aspects of dance. The first movement brings exuberance to a carnival atmosphere; in the second, the moon dances above the shadows that engulf the dead. In the last, the girl on the swing arcs across the sky, her dance shimmering beneath the moon.
‘. . .there is harmonic sensitivity in the way contrasting variants of both homophonic and polyphonic sections are built. Throughout the piece is that linear logic so much needed to make any music – but especially choral music – satisfying to perform.’
CHOIR & ORGAN
‘This rousing, back-stiffening and celebratory recital features appropriately effusive and reflective pieces delivered with contrasting glee and gravitas…‘
CHOIR & ORGAN
‘It seems that every text McDowall touches turns to a golden composition full of warm dissonances and unexpected harmonic progressions.’
CHORAL JOURNAL 2011
‘McDowalls lyrical gifts make her a natural carol writer . . . Now may we singen is more straightforward: a joyful dance with a medieval flavour thanks to punchy rhythms, vocal drones and parallel fourths and fifths.’
CHURCH MUSIC QUARTERLY
‘. . . these diverse works add wonderfully to the repertoire and should help open up new horizons for concert promoters.’
‘McDowalls lyrical gifts make her a natural carol writer. In her Christina Rossetti setting, Before the paling of the stars, the haunting melody, first emerging out of a mysterious organ texture, is given a variety of expressive treatment, ever growing in confidence as we hail the King of glory.’
CHURCH MUSIC QUARTERLY
‘…this sumptuous music where expressive highlighting of key words gleams like episodes in a Chagall window.’
CHOIR & ORGAN