WORKS: God is with us; Song for Athene; Svyati; Magnificat and Nunc dimittis; Two Hymns to the Mother of God; Funeral Ikos; The Lord’s Prayer; The Lamb; The Tiger,
PERFORMER: Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson; Tim Hugh (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555256
Publicity-wise, the inclusion of Song for Athene in the funeral service of Princess Diana might have been a lucky break for John Tavener. Even so, and as this collection shows, within the composer’s oeuvre the piece is by no means unique in its powerful expression of grief. Liturgy permitting, the slightly longer Funeral Ikos or the timeless alleluias of As One Who Has Slept might no less effectively have been substituted at the service and earned him equal acclaim.
In fact, as he himself has hinted, mourning becomes him; and the dark dialogues of cello and choir in Svyati (O Holy One) are among his most profound expressions of this impulse. Tim Hugh beautifully measures the measureless rhythms of the solo instrumental line in the basilica-like resonance of St John’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The reverse of the medal is the joy-infusing A Christmas Proclamation, thunderous organ chords marking the announcement of Christ’s birth.
Between these extremes, the quiet joy of Two Hymns to the Mother of God recalls that of The Protecting Veil, whose material they share. The gentle, suspended seventh chords of The Lamb and The Tiger touch the heart, respectively, of Tavener’s creative voice, of Blake’s vision, and of the listener. Nicholas Williams