Tavener: The Repentant Thief; To a Child Dancing in the Wind; Lamentation, Last Prayer and Exaltation; A Mini Song Cycle for Gina; Melina

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: RCA
ALBUM TITLE: Tavener
WORKS: The Repentant Thief; To a Child Dancing in the Wind; Lamentation, Last Prayer and Exaltation; A Mini Song Cycle for Gina; Melina

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PERFORMER: Patricia Rozario (soprano), Kathryn Lucas (flute), Andrew Marriner (clarinet), Stephen Tees (viola), Helen Tunstall (harp), John Tavener (piano);
London SO/Michael Tilson Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 88697217612

When The Repentant Thief first appeared on disc well over a decade ago my feeling was the neither the ritualized repetition nor the interspersed Greek dance episodes really came off. What a difference a performance makes! When you have musicians who give themselves up to the Tavener ethos as enthusiastically as Andrew Marriner and Michael Thomas it all comes to life. Simplicity and repetition become charged with meaning. A tiny change in the shape of a phrase or a chord sequence carries surprising emotional weight. And instead of sounding like background music for a travel documentary the dance music becomes muscular and flavoursome.

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To a Child Dancing in the Wind is performed with just as much loving devotion by soprano Patricia Rozario, but the impression here is much more mixed: poignant, haunting ideas alternate with motifs which don’t bear repetition quite so graciously. But the other WB Yeats setting, A Mini Song Cycle for Gina, gets the simplicity/telling invention balance just right and seems over incredibly quickly, while Lamentation, Last Prayer and Exaltation achieves far more than seems possible with just solo voice and handbells. Excellent atmospheric recordings complete the experience. Stephen Johnson