Tavener: The Bridegroom; Come and do Your will in me

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COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: The Bridegroom; Come and do Your will in me
PERFORMER: Anonymous 4, Chilingirian Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907274
John Tavener’s liking for the prolix and apocalyptic is offset by the intense vision of his shorter choral pieces, of which The Bridegroom, receiving its premiere recording by the debut artists, is a fine example. The artfully chosen context of plainsong linked to themes of spiritual darkness and light enhances its impact, the organa of the lections being also complementary to the composer’s own favoured parallel harmonies.

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Beyond that, in exemplary recordings that capture the bloom of these female voices in each exquisitely tuned dissonance, there lies an enigma. For, in spite of the composer’s much vaunted Orthodoxy, we find the soothing repetitions of Gavin Bryars’s minimalist classic Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet recalled in Tavener’s own string quartet litanies both in The Bridegroom and in the no less touching As One Who has Slept? And, in The Bridegroom’s spacious interplay of forces, might one detect not only the echoing cathedral resonance of the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, but also that of our distant Catholic heritage recently explored in essays by Peter Ackroyd? Impossible to be precise; but for this pair of ears at least, Tavener’s art sounds hardly Byzantine at all, but a fascinating offshoot of our native English stock. Nicholas Williams