Tavener: Eis Thanaton; Theophany

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COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Eis Thanaton; Theophany
PERFORMER: Patricia Rozario, Margaret Feaviour (soprano), Stephen Richardson, Jeremy Birchall (bass), ;City of London Sinfonia, Bournemouth SO/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9440 DDD
If Tavener’s continuing quest for spiritual purity has sometimes seemed to have been at the expense of a lively musical imagination, Eis Thanaton, written in 1985, serves to remind us that his familiar concerns of Greek culture and religious orthodoxy can still be wedded to a highly personal style.

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And how strongly it comes across in this ‘ikon of sorrow’, composed in memory of his mother and burning with feeling on every page. Soloists Stephen Richardson and Patricia Rozario pace the work with the sure touch of Tavener specialists, attuned to the needs of musical ritual conducted in space as well as sound (the piece can be semi-staged). Though a prelude of dark trombone chords recalls the world of the Akhmatova Requiem, distant soprano melismas in Eis Thanaton signify true redemption and renewal.

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Theophany (1994) contains all the familiar orchestral resonances of Tavener’s more recent work, including elemental open fifths on strings, piping woodwind chants and dazzling brass chorales. But a tape part, the numinous uncreated energies of God, and the voices of Adam and Eve, add a sinister touch. The conclusion is a warning of imminent apocalypse: buy now before it’s too late. Nicholas Williams