We have heard quite a lot of Tavener recently. His Petrenko-conducted
Requiem was issued by EMI
this year and the superb Lyrita
has reminded us of Tavener as he was in the 1970s.
The works on this set remind us of the chapter in his life since
the late 1980s when his music coincided with a world yearning
for spirituality. The eight movement Protecting Veil is in part
reminiscent of Samuel Barber. It could easily have been undramatic
but far from it. Listen to the fulsome stabbing figures beginning
at 6.40. This is music that is otherworldly and looks East. It
touches on values embraced and advocated by Hovhaness and Cowell.
The cello stands as orator, hortator, singer and evangelist.
The music becomes darker in the Domition
and more subdued.
At the end though there is sustaining spiritual glow in the final Protecting Veil
I should explain: Protecting Veil
is not only the
name of the piece but also the title of the two outer movements.
The piece ends as it began and is notable for its great up-welling
of string sound. CD 1 carries all the instrumental music. It
ends with the substantial single movement Last Sleep
In this the Chilingirian uncannily seem to speak with the quiet
trembling voice of a great string orchestra. The music is confiding
and vulnerable. It is touched with the liturgical delicacy of
the handbells. The second disc is choral - a medium by which
the composer is instantly recognisable. Angels
exposed, chant-based and fiercely celebratory. In it the organ
carries the connotation of a trembling but not guttering flame. Annunciation
uses that sense of space and distance: fervent fortissimos and
inward quiet. Both Lament of the Mother of God
have that recessed prayerful devotional patina
although there is also a stimulating abandon about the latter.
There it is carried and accentuated by surging organ lines sent
to run amok across the choral writing. Hymns of Paradise
a steadily glowing white purity and some fascinatingly inventive
and insistent vocal textures.
Julian Haylock's single page notes give us the essentials.
There is nothing truly difficult here and some may find it all
too direct. For me this is quite compelling music and to be valued
for its unwavering sense of being swept up into rapture. Pretentious
- well maybe - but it works for me.