Tavener: The Protecting Veil; In alium

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WORKS: The Protecting Veil; In alium
PERFORMER: Maria Kliegel (cello), Eileen Hulse (soprano); Ulster Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554388
Tavener’s expansive work for cello and strings, The Protecting Veil, was composed in 1987 at the prompting of Steven Isserlis, and subsequently performed at the the 1989 Proms. Although Isserlis’s much-praised recording of 1992, with the LSO and Rozhdestvensky, is difficult to better, this recording by Maria Kliegel does have much to recommend it, matching Isserlis’s expressive potency and poise.


The work takes as its inspiration the Orthodox Feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, which commemorates the Virgin’s appearance in Vlacherni Church, Constantinople, in the early tenth century. For Tavener, the cello represents the Mother of God, with the strings elaborating her ‘unending song’, cast in eight continuous sections.

In the sunny opening, subtitled ‘The Protecting Veil’, Kliegel achieves a drifting, breathy tone which is at once serene and powerful. Although she occasionally lacks Isserlis’s assurance in the very heights of the instrument, her reading of the fifth section, the darkness of ‘The Lament of the Mother of God at the Cross’, is supremely affecting for her introvert, dusky tone – understated and compelling. ‘The Dormition’ is inescapably beautiful, Kliegel achieving a melting lyricism, while under the meticulous direction of Takuo Yuasa, the Ulster Orchestra’s string textures are lustrous, rich and well defined.


Tavener’s In alium, written in 1968, makes an intriguing pairing. Scored for soprano, string orchestra, organ, Hammond organ, piano, percussion and four-track tape, it represents Tavener’s early experimental style, with its mesmerising and intricate layers of recorded and live sounds, its contemplative qualities pointing the way to his later spiritualism. Catherine Nelson