Tavener: Choral Ikons

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COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: BBC Opus Arts
ALBUM TITLE: Tavener
WORKS: Choral Ikons
PERFORMER: The Choir/James Whitbourn
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0854 D
The main selling-point of this DVD-aside from John Tavener’s music itself, of course — is the setting. Although filmed at a studio in Holland, the background, thanks to two Dutch masters of the craft of virtual reality, is the cavernous Hagia Sophia church. The temple of Christian worship as it was conceived in sixth-century Constantinople by Justinian, and not as the mosque it has been since the 15th century.

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The process involved creating virtual wire-frame structures clothed in appropriate textures and photographic images and the re-creation of the original lighting. The results are impressive, though we comparatively rarely glimpse entire vistas, and there’s much fairly soft-focused back projection. The acoustic engineers have had a field day, adding heaps of background resonance to the singing of a young group which rejoices in the self-explanatory name of The Choir. Under James Whitbourn they sing well the dozen short pieces, which include favourites like The Lamb and Song for Athene alongside lesser-known works. There are also interviews with the great man in his study, explaining each piece and his religious philosophies, a touching contribution from Athene’s parents, and a speech on ikons and their significance by Robert J Roozemond. Stephen Pettitt