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Cycles

Catalog Number: HVALUR19

Released: August 12 2013

Buy CD €14.99 | Download €10

  1. The Revd Mustard his Installation Prelude
  2. Hudson Preludes: Take Care
  3. Hudson Preludes: Follow Up
  4. Slow Twitchy Organs
  5. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Sapientia
  6. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Adonai
  7. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Radix Jesse
  8. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Clavis David
  9. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Oriens
  10. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Rex Gentium
  11. Seven O Antiphon Preludes: O Emmanuel
  12. Fast Cycles
  13. Beaming Music

James McVinnie’s Cycles comprises thirteen organ pieces by labelmate and composer Nico Muhly. Performing the pieces in addition to McVinnie are Nadia Sirota, Chris Thompson and Simon Wall.

McVinnie is neither a stranger to Muhly’s music nor the label’s output, having collaborated closely with its artists throughout the years. What makes McVinnie such an ideal interpreter of Muhly’s music is that he and Muhly share not just an understanding of the capabilities of the pipe organ as a musical instrument, but also an equally deep understanding of, and even affection for, its limitations.

McVinnie speaks eloquently on behalf of his instrument’s potential. “The organ is like a grand symphony orchestra controlled by one person manning a series of keyboards and pedals, stops and buttons. On the one hand, an organ can imitate orchestral instruments—the ardent string section of an orchestra, a lyrical clarinet, a French horn, timpani—and on the other, it has its own indigenous magisterial voice. Organs are built to speak into specific acoustic spaces. When you play, it’s as if you’re playing the whole building you’re in, which often can be electrifying.” And the organ as an instrument is tied to centuries of liturgical practice, capable of supporting or imitating a church choir with a solemnity few others could hope to summon. McVinnie is quick to point out, however, that the organ is also “the ultimate and original synthesizer”—and it is nothing if not a mechanical, wind-powered synthesizer, with all of the uncanny falseness that that word implies.

Much of Muhly’s work aspires to a kind of pop-art superflatness. The organ’s mechanical sound, its resistance to subtle dynamics, work perfectly with this tendency in Muhly’s music—particularly filtered through McVinnie’s subtle registrations, the combinations of stops pulled out to create each timbre. For instance, in Muhly’s prelude for their mutual friend, the Rev. James Mustard, McVinnie gives the slow-moving harmonies a breathy warmth, but it’s through a sparkling, crystalline pane of arpeggios.

The symphonic, the acoustic, the sacred, the synthetic: there’s a little of each in every one of these pieces, and sometimes more than a little. Muhly’s Twitchy Organs pairs the organ with viola and percussion, but on this recording, the space is as much of an instrument as the pipes are. It sounds warm and grand and alive; it sounds like an ambient work for reverb-soaked synths; it sounds like a prayer. It is, in fact, all of the above.

What the press says

Taking the composer’s schitzophrenic and haunting amalgamation of layered notes and texture, McVinnie breathes life into Cycles with dark intensity. The turbulence of Muhly’s compositions feels slightly more delicate and sparkling pouring out of the pipe organ, building and growing to a powerful and stimulating abrupt end. And as is usually the case with Muhly’s music, leaves you craving the next note.

Hillary Weston — BlackBook Magazine (July 2nd 2013) Read all reviews

James Mcvinnie’s playing is cavernous and lifted. the higher notes are like cascading crystals that sparkle in an abundant, musical flourish, but the instrument is also capable of an unrivalled thunderous roar. cycles switches between the two extremes at one point or another, taking in the wide, intervallic range of the instrument, allowing the music to breathe deeply but keeping everything compact and restricted to an upright, almost regal posture.

Fluid Radio (July 29th 2013) Read all reviews

McVinnie’s feel for the many moods in the cycle is as impressive as his technical command of the organ.

Q2 (August 5th 2013) Read all reviews

‘Cycles’ is a big, big sound, cathedral-esque and in places overwhelming, with only the addition of the violin and the beautiful tenor vocal performance from Simon Wall on the first part of ‘Seven O Antiphon Preludes’.

Norman Records (August 8th 2013) ★★★★★★★ Read all reviews

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