WORKS: Lamentations and Praises
PERFORMER: Chanticleer; Handel & Haydn Society of Boston/Joseph Jennings
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-41342-2
With Lamentations and Praises its nice to find John Tavener firmly back on earth after Song of the Cosmos at last year’s Proms. Even composers of the New Spirituality can err; Tavener’s problem, having so long been branded thus, is that something transcendent is now expected from each new work, whereas the truly religious know how only the sacraments yield the truly transcendental.
Better to follow the humbler, reflective tradition of the Bach Passions. Inspired by ikons for Holy Week and the Resurrection, and by the Orthodox Matins for Holy and Great Saturday, this sequence of chants and choruses does just that, lovely in effect and in its typical Tavener sectional form a real aid to meditation rather than an outstayed welcome. An ensemble including flute, bass trombone, strings and monastery bells shows his ear at its most keenly discerning. Echoes of the Anglican harmonies of The Lamb and darker textures of Svyati abound in the quiet writing for male chorus, and there’s pathos in the Byzantine-style singing of the vocal lines.
Described as a ‘liturgical drama’, the piece includes a strongly spatial element, which is well captured through the careful engineering of this fine performance. Nicholas Williams