Tavener/Bloch

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COMPOSERS: Tavener/Bloch
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Eternal Memory; From Jewish Life
PERFORMER: Steven Isserlis (cello)Moscow Virtuosi/Vladimir Spivakov
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61966 2 DDD
Though it is The Protecting Veil that has firmly established the cello as the soul of John Tavener’s music, its overwhelming success should not obscure his other concertante essays for this most expressive of stringed instruments. One such piece, virtually ignored since its 1977 premiere, is Kyklike kinesis, with choir and orchestra. Another is the recent Eternal Memory, from the same Orthodox stable as ‘The Veil’ but with a warmth and immediacy of its own.

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Composed for Steven Isserlis and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 1991, this brief work relates to the remembrance of the ‘Paradise Lost’, which is the same paradise still to come beyond death. A fleeting Scherzo, second of the three movements, is a perfect specimen of the composer’s light-headed dance style. Elsewhere, the music is serene, radiant and beautifully turned, in a superb performance by the original performer with the Moscow Virtuosi.

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On the same disc Isserlis revives Ernest Bloch’s From Jewish Life, arranged for cello and strings by Christopher Palmer. Again, the cello becomes the vehicle for spiritual eloquence. Each of the three movements – ‘Jewish Song’, ‘Supplication’ and ‘Prayer’ – is an impassioned elegy. Though quarter-tones and exotic scales give a Hebrew flavour far removed from Tavener’s Byzantine chants, there remains an essential common element – a quality of devotional, rapt stillness, captured in the music. Nicholas Williams