Tavener: Beyond the Veil

LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Tavener: Beyond the Veil
WORKS: Beyond the Veil
PERFORMER: John Tavener; Westminster Abbey Choir
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23931-2 (NTSC system; PCM stereo; 4.3 picture ratio)
Based on the LWT South Bank Show profile of John Tavener, this 80-minute blend of music, images and interview snippets makes an intriguingly multi-layered portrait. While there is no aggressive crossquestioning from Melvyn Bragg, nor any arch quizzical note in his commentary, this film manages to show what a paradoxical figure Tavener is. His frankness when he talks about spiritual matters is breathtaking – yet is there sometimes just a hint of a raised eyebrow? Certainly he seems aware how provocative his statements must sound in an age split between fundamentalism and crass hedonism. Nor is Tavener defensive when reminded of his love of red wine, his devoted women and expensive cars. A purist who sets himself apart from humanist Western art, Tavener still has something of the Wagnerian sensualist about him. Mystic or skilful magician? In the end it’s the music that matters, and time and again something transcendent does shine through despite what can seem perplexingly simple musical means. Stephen Johnson