This album is designed as a tribute to the life and memory of Linda McCartney (who died of breast cancer in 1998) and includes the work of nine contemporary British composers.
Portmanteau albums such as these always raise the question of stylistic unity, but actually the composers have mostly responded to the theme of illness, suffering, and hope in very similar ways: the tone of the whole album is one of calm reflection, punctuated by moments of visionary ecstasy.
Unity is also achieved by the awe-inspiring singing of the Joyful Company of Singers, who produce a cool cathedral-type sound that gets red-blooded at exactly the right moments. There are some extraordinary moments: Judith Bingham's Debussy-esque multilayered soundscape is one, as is Giles Swayne's setting of the 10th-century poem "The Swan's Lament" with contributions from flute and cello.
Thankfully, the percentage of beautiful, imaginative, or interesting music is high, even if it's not all at the level of the two pieces mentioned above. Fans of John Tavener or Arvo Pärt will certainly find much to enjoy, while Paul McCartney himself contributes the choral piece "Nova" to this garland.
A percentage of the proceeds go to the Garland Appeal, which supports cancer research and British music.
- Warwick Thompson