WORKS: Out of the Night; Canticle of the Mother of God; Threnos; Ikon of the Nativity
PERFORMER: Instrumentalists; Taverner Choir/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: SK 61753
Tavener and Pärt are so often grouped together that one would assume their music was interchangeable. This disc pits two extremes of the composers’ styles against each other: Tavener’s exotic melodicism, effectively portrayed, in Canticle of the Mother of God, by Claron McFadden’s sensual soprano; and Pärt’s ritualistic, glowing ‘tintinnabuli’ works, based on the bell-like quality of diatonic triad and scale.
There are also some excellent string items – a fact you remain unaware of until opening the booklet. The wonderfully rich three-cello sound of Fratres, the vibrato increasing in accordance with the textural complexity, made me sit up and listen every time, and Moray Welsh’s playing of Threnos is movingly bleak.
The Taverner Choir’s performances are about as good as you could get – but this is technically easy music to perform effectively if the intonation is firmly grounded. Pärt’s Magnificat Antiphons – the powerful, ringing discords, splendid Russian-sounding basses descending impossibly low, and heart-stopping silent bars in O Immanuel – are outstanding.
Ikon of the Nativity, Tavener’s solemn chant-like setting of a strangely chatty translation of St Ephrem (‘No one quite knows what to call your mother…’), pushes the credibility of this sort of music to its limits.