The Taverner Choir & Players: Western Wind
The Taverner Choir & Players bring us a benchmark performance of the Western Wind Mass by the choir’s namesake, John Taverner. There have already been recordings by The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, Ars Nova Copenhagen and King’s College Choir, Cambridge – but the striking originality of the Taverner Choir’s interpretation and programming puts this disc in a league of its own.
The Mass presents variations on the secular song Western Wynde. Director Andrew Parrott probes how those variations differ when Taverner is writing for solo lines as opposed to for full choir. Parrott further draws out these differences by including after the Mass two of Taverner’s responds, which also contrast solo with choral sections. He illuminates Taverner’s characteristic handling of textures, perhaps clearest in the lyricism of entwined single voices. The choral sections, while exquisite in their ensemble, are also marked by a warmth of individual tones absent from rival recordings.
This disc is also unique in the way it embeds Taverner’s Mass in Tudor secular music. Wedged between Mass movements are dance, song, and keyboard solos, performed by leading artists like Stephen Devine (harpsichord) and Emily Van Evera (soprano). We are given a view of the repertory that inspired Taverner, not least the Western Wynde song itself, performed unaccompanied by Van Evera. In the final track Parrott gives us this melody as his own 50-second arrangement for viol and mute cornett, exemplifying his powers to reinvent, and draw us into, the musical world of Henry VIII.