Tavener: We shall see Him as He is

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: We shall see Him as He is
PERFORMER: Patricia Rozario, John Mark Ainsley, Andrew MurgatroydBBC Welsh SO & Chorus/Richard Hickox
Few comebacks in recent years have been quite as remarkable as that of John Tavener. Any outré tendencies apparent in earlier works have been replaced by a reflective mysticism deriving from a profound Orthodox faith. The broad appeal of his style has found a ready audience, striking a chord, as with the works of Pärt and Górecki, with a wide spectrum of opinion.


We shall see Him as He is, a setting of fragmentary verses compiled by the composer’s spiritual mentor, Mother Thekla, was premiered at the Proms this summer. It is a broad work, full of the direct, modal writing surrounded by an undeniably gorgeous harmonic halo, familiar from other recent compositions. Offsetting the process of gradual revelation are passages of vigorous movement, though one of these is a recurring element which sounds uncomfortably like a Roman-epic fanfare straight out of Hollywood. The atmosphere of the work seems to have captured the imagination of all involved. Chandos’s recording is based on the Proms performance, but apart from the odd instrumental and vocal quaver, it could be a studio performance. The three soloists are excellent, but perhaps most remarkable of all is the behaviour of the audience who barely make a splutter.The only sign of restiveness comes in the echoing near-silence of the episode entitled ‘The Tomb’. Chandos has done a splendid job of preserving this live performance for posterity. Admirers of Tavener will certainly not hang back, nor need anyone interested in well-performed contemporary repertory. Jan Smaczny