Tavener: The Protecting Veil; Wake Up… and Die

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WORKS: The Protecting Veil; Wake Up… and Die
PERFORMER: Yo-Yo Ma (cello)Baltimore SO/David Zinman
The success of Tavener’s The Protecting Veil for cello and strings has inevitably meant that every major recording company feels obliged to have its own version. Sony now makes its bid with Yo-Yo Ma and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, director David Zinman. Ma has been working hard of late to promote his image as an intelligent, sensitive cellist (but listen to how he plays and this seems unnecessary). With Zinman he has won a 1997 Grammy for recordings of new cello concertos by Danielpour, Kirchner and Rouse, so the Tavener seems a natural choice. It’s partnered by Wake Up… and Die, the world premiere recording of a work that is dedicated to Ma and written for solo cello and orchestral cello section.


The seven sections of The Protecting Veil challenge performers to capture the repose of Tavener’s mystical style, while retaining a sense of forward momentum without which most listeners will switch off. Though lacking a concerto’s rhetoric, the piece can still benefit from the special tone and sense of propulsion that an experienced soloist will bring to it. This is Ma’s strength; his playing is fuller and slightly more driven than that of the richly poetic Isserlis on Virgin’s benchmark original.


Couplings may also be important. With Wallfisch and the RPO come Eternal Memory and Thrinos, two other Tavener cello works, finely played; with Knight and the English Sinfonia, Nyman’s Strong on Oaks. Even so, if your aim is to update your original purpose, Ma looks like a firm favourite. Nicholas Williams