Tavener: Eternal Memory; Svyati; Akhmatova Songs; The Hidden Treasure; Chant

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Eternal Memory; Svyati; Akhmatova Songs; The Hidden Treasure; Chant
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello), Patricia Rozario (sop), Daniel Phillips, Krista Bennion Feeney (violin), Todd Phillips (viola); Moscow Virtuosi/Vladimir Spivakov, Kiev Chamber Choir/Mykola Gobdych
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68761 2
The cello defines something at the heart of Tavener’s music, and vice versa. Entrusted to the capable hands of Steven Isserlis, the composer’s muse soars to heights of invention in this anthology of recent concertante and chamber works. Passionate yet refined, his playing never shirks the expressive burden of the long, exposed line; his intonation is impeccable and his timbre nuanced by the most sparing use of vibrato.

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Isserlis himself commissioned Svyati (O Holy One), a dark exploration in church Slavonic for cello and chamber choir. Though brief by Tavener’s standards, its sense of the burden of grief is timeless. Deserving of a place in the cello repertoire, the even shorter Eternal Memory, for cello and strings, is superbly captured in an agile recording of Vladimir Spivakov’s Moscow Virtuosi. In a different way, The Hidden Treasure, exceptionally on this disc not a first recording, is no less telling in its high fidelity to the timbre of solo strings. Violins and viola make room in the clouds for the chant-like cadenzas Isserlis provides. He partners Patricia Rozario’s pure soprano in the Akhmatova Songs, humane and Western in breeding, yet in their demeanour not a whit less Slavonic. Nicholas Williams