Tavener¥Vaughan Williams

COMPOSERS: Tavener,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Tavener,Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Tavener:Song for Athene; Dhyana; LalishriVaughan Williams:The Lark Ascending
PERFORMER: Nicola Benedetti (violin); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton
CATALOGUE NO: 476 6198
The voice of my education tells me I ought not to like Tavener’s music. How can such wilful simplicity, such refusal to ‘develop’ in any approved Western sense, be meaningful? And as for the mystical aspirations, how can they ring true in an age of Richard Dawkins and rampant, cynical materialism?

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Well yes, there are Tavener works where a few simple ideas are stretched very thin indeed, where ‘ritualised’ repetition eventually deadens rather than elevates the spirits. But in the violin concerto Lalishri and its companion piece Dhyana the sheer seductive beauty of the sound is hard to resist. And although there are ideas that repeat, there’s also plenty of well-calculated, balanced variety, while the athletic liveliness of some of the extended dance sections (at several points surprisingly recalling Tippett) will startle those who think they have Tavener’s more recent manner comprehensibly taped. In fact Lalishri in particular is full of surprises, not least Tavener’s feeling for the violin both as singer and as virtuoso soloist. Hard as it may be to imagine Tavener writing a concerto in the traditional sense, that’s often what Lalishri,/i> feels like.

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It’s clear from Nicola Benedetti’s performance that she loves this music every bit as much as she loves Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending, which she plays with similar open-hearted warmth and rapt concentration – as well as superb technical control. She also catches the mood of deep elegiac sadness that underlies much of this piece – after all, the world was about to change irrevocably in 1914, the year in which it was composed. The recordings, too, are outstanding. Stephen Johnson