Tavener: Akhmatova Requiem; Six Russian Folksongs

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Akhmatova Requiem; Six Russian Folksongs
PERFORMER: Akhmatova Requiem; Six Russian Folksongs
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91972 ADD
For anyone in need of an antidote to the sugary Protecting Veil, Tavener’s austerely beautiful Akhmatova Requiem written in 1979/80 should provide it. This performance is taken from a Promenade concert in August 1981 and neither sound nor balance are a strong feature – to a hissy sound is added frequent audience coughing. But don’t let that put you off. This is the only recording in the catalogue and it is a very remarkable work. There’s more than a hint of Britten — die War Requiem – in its combining of secular poetry with liturgical text as well as the occasional brass flurry. The overall mood is deeply bleak and despairing, the scoring — emphasising brass, percussion (in particular bells), strings and two sets of timpani – most certainly funereal. The soprano soloist, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, after a slightly tentative start, finishes in radiant voice. The bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk lacks focus, the voice rather wobbly and not always convincingly in tune. The work is continuous despite 18 track numbers,

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which I suspect do not entirely coincide with the given texts. The ‘filler’, Tavener’s Six Russian Folksongs from a 1979 Prom, is absolutely delightful and enjoys better sound. Soprano Elise Ross is in particularly good voice, supported by the excellent Nash Ensemble. Annette Morreau