Tavener: Requiem; Eternal Memory; Mahashakati

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WORKS: Requiem; Eternal Memory; Mahashakati
PERFORMER: Elin Manahan Thomas, Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Josephine Knight (cello); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
CATALOGUE NO: 235 1342


The main piece here is the premiere of Tavener’s Requiem, recorded in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral in February 2008. It’s performed in a cruciform configuration with the cello (representing God’s ‘primordial white light’) in the centre; choir and brass in the east; strings, treble and tenor in the west; percussion north and south. The audience sits ‘inside’.

Lately Tavener often seems to be glancing back at his early Modernist days. There are passages in the Requiem which sound like Britten and a toughness that will surprise listeners who are only familiar with Tavener’s meditational works in the so-called ‘Holy Minimalist’ genre.

The last movement is extraordinary: an undulating choral figure is set amidst swells of sound from the orchestra and soloists as the piece builds to a dense climax bringing together Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek and Arabic texts, with Elin Manahan Thomas’s pellucid soprano above.

Finally, everything falls away leaving a quiet organ drone over which the cello represents what Tavener considers the Requiem’s truest meaning: the concept that ‘Our glory lies where we [the false Self] cease to exist’.


The disc is completed by Eternal Memory (1991) for cello and strings and a ravishing performance of Mahashakti (2003). Barry Witherden