The Wells Cathedral Choir performs songs by Taverner

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Missa Wellensis; Magnificat & Nunc dimittis ‘Collegium Regale’; Love bade me welcome; Preces and Responses; Song for Athene, etc.
PERFORMER: Wells Cathedral Choir/Matthew Owens

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Both the premiere recordings here are from Tavener’s late period, between a debilitating heart attack in 2007 and his death six years later. Missa Wellensis is the larger piece, though concision is an organising principle: the tight canonic writing of the Kyrie and Gloria bring a tight, unblinking lock-in to the spiritual import of the text, the entire work lasting just 17 minutes. Set for double choir, with further subdivision of the voice parts, it is not an easy piece to sing convincingly. There is, though, nothing at all tentative about this fervently committed performance by the Wells Cathedral Choir, a group with special connections to Tavener. The thrilling attack on ‘Quoniam tu solus Sanctus’, the resplendent tutti singing in the Sanctus and Benedictus, and the searching unison lines of trebles and tenors in the Agnus Dei, all betoken expert preparation and genuine identification with the music.

Preces and Responses, the other work new to CD, elicits a reverently tender reading, with especially affecting contributions from the boy and girl choristers. It is embedded in a sequence of short Tavener pieces appropriate to the Evensong service. A moving programme, devotedly sung and sensitively directed by Matthew Owens.

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Terry Blain