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Recordings of the Month


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3



Aho Symphony 5

Dowland - A Fancy


Rachmaninov_ Babayan



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John TAVENER (b. 1944)
CD 1
The Protecting Veil (1989) [45:42]
The Last Sleep of the Virgin (1991) [24:29]
CD 2
Angels (1985) [7:34]
Annunciation (1992) [5:25]
The Lament of the Mother of God (1989) [15:38]
Thunder Entered Her (1990) [17:11]
Hymns of Paradise (1993) [10:52]
God is With Us (1987) [5:57]
Steven Isserlis (cello): London Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Veil); Chilingirian Quartet, Iain Simcock (handbells) (Virgin); Solveig Kringelborn (soprano) (first three items CD2); Williams Kendall (tenor), David Dunnett (organ); Iain Simcock (handbells) (Thunder); William Kendall (tenor) (last two items); Winchester Cathedral Choir/David Hill, David Dunnett.
rec. No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, 28-29 May 1991 (Veil); All Saints Church, Petersham, Surrey, 24-25 July 1993 (Virgin); Winchester Cathedral, 24-28 January 1994. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 2376912 [69:17 + 62:40]
Experience Classicsonline

We have heard quite a lot of Tavener recently. His Petrenko-conducted Requiem was issued by EMI earlier this year and the superb Lyrita CD 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 episode. 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 is simple, exposed, chant-based and fiercely celebratory. In it the organ carries the connotation of a trembling but not guttering flame. Annunciation again uses that sense of space and distance: fervent fortissimos and inward quiet. Both Lament of the Mother of God and Thunder Entered Her 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 has 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.

Rob Barnett



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