Tavener: The Whale

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Tavener
LABELS: Apple/EMI
WORKS: The Whale
PERFORMER: Anna Reynolds, Raimund Herincx, Alvar Lidell/ London Sinfonietta Chorus and Orchestra/David Atherton
CATALOGUE NO: CDSAPCOR 15 ADD
It was only a matter of time, given the new audience for John Tavener’s music following the success of The Protecting Veil, before this historic recording would re-emerge on CD. The Whale was the work that first made the composer’s name widely known and also helped launch the London Sinfonietta, having been given its first performance at the orchestra’s inaugural concert in January 1968.

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Anyone familiar with Tavener’s recent, pared-down, heavily spiritual sound world may well be surprised by his more overtly dissonant and avant-garde style of the 1960s. Yet there is the same dramatic grasp that pervades recent works like The Protecting Veil.

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The performance is gripping, with memorable contributions from newsreader Alvar Lidell (who begins the work with a layman’s description of a whale), baritone Raimund Herincx and mezzo-soprano Anna Reynolds. The transfer to CD reveals a focused, if obviously studio-balanced sound, but, despite the recording’s undoubted historical value, a mere 32 minutes on a disc is very poor value today, at whatever price. Matthew Rye