For many years now, Paul Patterson has been one of the most widely respected of British composers. An important part of this reputation is based on his choral music. The last 150 years or so have been a golden era for English choral music, with Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Delius, Walton and Britten, amongst others, all writing large-scale choral masterpieces; Patterson has done much to continue this noble tradition.
Patterson has contributed to the choral repertoire a sizeable corpus of major works notable for their sheer diversity, ranging from the nightmarish violence of the Requiem (1974), the surreal fantasy of Voices of Sleep (1979) and Hell’s Angels (1998), the profound seriousness of Mass of the Sea (1983) and the Stabat Mater (1986), to the outgoing celebration of the Te Deum (1988) and, most recently, the Millennium Mass (1999).
It is to this last category that the Magnificat, commissioned by Sir David Willcocks and the Bach Choir in 1993, resolutely belongs. Scored for organ, brass octet and 2 percussionists, the work is in 5 movements.
The first movement starts with bracing brass fanfares which lead into choral writing of sturdy, largely homophonic nature. The second movement is lighter-textured, with more canonic writing and propulsive, jazzy rhythms. The first movement’s fanfares reappear in the fiery conclusion. The third movement is the shortest and most dramatic of the five. Beginning with a stark trombone summons (a recognisable Patterson fingerprint from the Mass of the Sea onwards), it is built around 2 long crescendi over a timpani ostinato, the second of which climaxes in a series of brass chords with startling harmonic sidesteps, before the movement quietly subsides on another trombone solo. The fourth movement is in complete contrast to the first three: textures are much sparser, with much reflective a cappella choral writing, interrupted twice by offstage trumpet fanfares. Otherwise it flows onwards before dying away on lush, languorous harmonies. Commencing with a short, bold introduction, the vigorous Finale essentially recapitulates the material heard in the second movement, with canonic writing and jazzy rhythms to the fore. Finally the brass fanfares from the very opening return to provide an appropriately grand conclusion
Note by Dr. Paul Pellay 1994 rev. 2000
to view the Sonoran Desert Chorale promotional video for their performance of the Magnificat
Chorus and Brass Ensemble. SATB Chorus-4Tpt-3Tbn-Tba-2Perc-Org
Commission: Commission: The Bach Choir London
Publisher: Josef Weinberger
Wellington International Festival, New Zealand, 10th March 1994
Bach Choir / New Zealand Symphony Orchestra / Sir David Willcoks