Tavener: Eternity’s Sunrise; Funeral Canticle; A Ritual Dream; Sappho

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COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Eternity’s Sunrise; Funeral Canticle; A Ritual Dream; Sappho
PERFORMER: Patricia Rozariojulia Gooding (soprano), George Mosley (baritone), Andrew Manze (violin);Academy of Ancient Music & Choir/Paul Goodwin
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907231
It seemed a bizarre combination at first: the music of one of Britain’s most popular living composers performed by one of its most renowned early music groups. But the disc soon convinced me otherwise: the sparer, leaner textures of gut strings, lute and Baroque flute actually enhance the ritualistic nature of Tavener’s music, and Goodwin draws moving and disciplined performances from his forces.

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Eternity’s Sunrise (1997), a 25th birthday commission from the AAM, is an immediately attractive piece, very Eastern sounding with its plucked strings, harp and bells. So slowly and melismatically is William Blake’s text set that Rozario’s exquisitely high, pure soprano line could just as well be wordless. What comes across most powerfully is the music’s calm, ecstatic quality, given shape by recurring figures and an underlying strophic form.

The disc which developed from this commission offers a chance to hear three other recent Tavener works not otherwise available in the catalogue, all typical of the religious simplicity that has become his hallmark. In addition, Sappho (1981), written in hospital after a stroke at the age of 36 left the composer temporarily paralysed,

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shows something of his earlier, more complex instrumental writing and loosely serial style. Janet Banks