Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Doherty, Seán. “The Mass ‘Transubstantiated’ into Music: Quotation and Allusion in James Macmillan’s Fourth Symphony.” Music &Letters 99 (November 2018): 635-71.

James MacMillan’s use of quotation and allusion in his Fourth Symphony parallels the liturgical order of the Pauline Mass and reflects MacMillan’s approach to Catholic liturgy. The various plainchant and mass movement quotations and allusions MacMillan uses generally follow the order of the mass. The symphony opens with the plainchant introit Os justi meditabitur, which occurs three times throughout the symphony representing the entrance procession, the offertory procession, and the Communion procession. MacMillan quotes the Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus of Robert Carver’s 1506-1513 Mass Dum sacrum mysterium, which MacMillan frames as a touchstone of Scottish Catholic culture against the destructive influence (in MacMillan’s assessment) of the Reformation. The Liturgy of the Word is represented in the symphony by allusions to liturgical-chant formulae punctuated by the Gospel Acclamation Alleluia. For the Liturgy of the Eucharist, MacMillan quotes his own St. Luke Passion, connecting the Passion narrative to its re-enactment in the Mass. MacMillan concludes this self-quotation with an allusion to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, a work that MacMillan also alluded to in several earlier compositions. In doing so, MacMillan reads Tristan as a religious work expressing the theme of transcendence of death through self-sacrifice. Despite MacMillan’s public insistence that the symphony is not programmatic, the quotations and allusions from various Masses provide a clear programmatic structure to the work and demonstrate MacMillan’s subjective reactions to the liturgy.

Works: James MacMillan: Symphony No. 4 (640-65), Piano Sonata (661), Symphony No. 2 (661).

Sources: Anonymous: Os justi meditabitur (640-44), Eucharistic Doxology (643, 648), Missa Deus Genitor alme (643-44, 648-49), Missa de Angelis (647-48), Missa Orbis factor (649-51); Robert Carver: Mass Dum sacrum mysterium (645-51); James MacMillan: St. Luke Passion (656-59); Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (659-63).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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