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James MacMillan's recent orchestral work Woman of the Apocalypse is performed at the Barbican in London and the Philharmonie in Berlin in December.

Marin Alsop conducts the UK premiere of James MacMillan's Woman of the Apocalypse with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in London on 4 December. Alsop's long association with MacMillan's music included the world premiere of this work at the Cabrillo Festival in California in 2012, followed by its South American premiere with the Sao Paulo Symphony in Brazil last year. The evening concert at the Barbican is preceded by a 6.00 pm choral concert by the BBC Singers at St Giles' Cripplegate including MacMillan's Mairi and ...fiat mihi... conducted by David Hill. Both concerts will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The Philharmonie in Berlin plays host to a further performance of Woman of the Apocalypse on 20 December with Manfred Honeck conducting the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. Honeck conducted the work twice last year: its first New York performance at the Spring for Music Festival at Carnegie Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and its German premiere by the NDR Sinfonieorchester in Hamburg.

MacMillan's Woman of the Apocalypse, composed in 2011-12, fuses the forms of tone poem and concerto for orchestra, playing continuously for 27 minutes. The work was inspired by a range of visual art describing the mystical appearance of an angelic woman at times of crisis, as described in the Book of Revelation and painted by artists including Dürer, Rubens, Doré, Blake, Marvenko and others. The five sections of the score each focus on an aspect of the apocalyptic imagery and narrative: A woman clothed by the sun; The great battle; She is given the wings of a great eagle; She is taken up; and finally her Coronation.

This work joins a series of MacMillan scores with inspirational links to art, portraiture and sculpture. ...as others see us... (1990) for ensemble depicts six portraits across 500 years, I (A Meditation on Iona) (1996) for strings and percussion was a collaborative work with artist Sue Jane Taylor capturing resonances from the Hebridean island, and The Death of Oscar (2012) is an orchestral tone poem linked to Alexander Stoddardt's plans for a monumental sculpture in tribute to the Scottish bard Ossian, receiving its UK premiere in Edinburgh in April. MacMillan's organ concerto A Scotch Bestiary (2003-4) is a modern-day equivalent to Pictures at an Exhibition with sketches of contemporary Scottish figures taking on animal disguise. His chamber output includes Fourteen Little Pictures (1997), a sequence of abstract musical miniatures for piano trio, and Le Tombeau de Georges Rouault (2003), a tribute to the French painter for solo organ.

MacMillan's current projects include a Requiem, a Stabat Mater, a work commissioned for the centennial celebrations at the Fátima shrine in Portugal, and a new resurrection chorale for Streetwise Opera's dramatic adaptation of Bach's St Matthew Passion, staged in Manchester in March.

>  Further information on Work: Woman of the Apocalypse

Photo: Philip Gatward

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