Tavener: The Veil of the Temple

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COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Tavener – The Veil of the Temple
WORKS: The Veil of the Temple
PERFORMER: Patricia RozarioHolst Singers, Temple Church ChoirStephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 66154 2
The Veil of the Temple is a

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condensed, concert version of John

Tavener’s immense All-Night Vigil.

In the church calendar it’s the grand

rite that follows the progression

from the darkness of night to the

dawn of Easter Day, paralleling

it with Christ’s suffering, death

and resurrection. So, despite its

enormous length, it’s a ritual with

a sustained, often very moving narrative thread. Tavener’s setting

is far from operatic – though there

is a touching reference to Wagner’s

Tristan at the darkest point in the

Passion story. It is, as one would

expect from this composer’s music,

highly ritualised, with much of the

music firmly anchored to sustained,

primal drone bass. But the way

in which Tavener manages to

combine the timeless, primordial

element with a compelling sense

of underlying progress is masterly.

Broadly speaking the means to this

end are very simple: the drone bass

slowly rises, the harmonies become

richer, the choral forces grow in

size, until the apocalyptic C major

fortissimo, enriched by massed brass

and timpani, of the culminating

New Jerusalem Hymn.

The performance is

outstanding, capturing the

range of colour and expression in Tavener’s highly original choral

writing to magical effect, while

the recording is finely responsive

to the atmosphere of London’s

Temple Church, with only a slight loss of clarity in the climactic

Hymn. Warmly recommended.

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Stephen Johnson