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John Tavener (1944-2013)

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Tavener: Akhmatova Requiem

Tavener: Akhmatova Requiem


Tavener:

Akhmatova Requiem

Phyllis Bryn-Julson (soprano) & John Shirley-Quirk (bass-baritone)

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky

Russian Folk Songs (6)

Elise Ross (soprano)

The Nash Ensemble


John Tavener first came to public attention in 1968 with the premiere of his oratorio The Whale at the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta; The Beatles subsequently recorded this piece on their Apple label.

Akhmatova Requiem will be performed at London's Barbican on 5 October as part of BBC Total Immersion: John Tavener Remembered Tavener's avant-garde style of the seventies contrasts with the contemplative beauty of his later works, for which he is best known, yet he spirituality and mysticism is still present.

Akhmatova Requiem (1980) sets a sequence of poems written during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s by Anna Akhmatova, describing the terror of having her family and friends arrested and imprisoned, and the lines of relatives waiting hopelessly outside Leningrad jail. To her poems, Tavener added prayers from the Russian Orthodox funeral service which are sung on this recording by bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk.

Six Russian Folk Songs (1978) represent, in the composer's words, 'a musical sigh of relief' and a complete contrast to the pain and sorrow of the Requiem; they were written for the Nash Ensemble's 15th anniversary in 1979. Simple settings of folk lyrics, their melodic nature recalls Tchaikovsky's songs.

This recording was previously issued by Carlton Classics in its BBC Radio Classics series.

“this heartfelt setting of Anna Akhmatova's blistering condemnation of Stalinist atrocities still packs an enormous punch...The Requiem grips from the start...Phyllis Bryn-Julson is on strong form, portraying outrage with convincing passion while avoiding operatic melodramatics...the Requiem is, against all odds, ultimately uplifting, paying tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2015 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Re-issue of the Month - December 2014

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Tavener conducts Tavener

Tavener conducts Tavener


Moody, I:

O isplendor

Tavener:

O, do not move

Two Hadiths

Take Him Earth For Cherishing

The Lamb

Paradise Choir (from Resurrection)

Sunrise in Your Heart

A New Commandment

A Buddhist Miniature

Ikon of the Nativity

The Founder's Prayer

Nunc dimittis (second setting)

A Cradle Song

They are all gone into the world of light

O that we were there!


Cappella Nova, Alan Tavener

Tavener Conducts Tavener charts Cappella Nova’s professional and personal connection with the celebrated composer Sir John Tavener.

Tavener wrote some of the twentieth century’s most beautiful choral music; works such as The Whale and Song for Athene, which was sung at the funeral of Princess Diana, ensured he remained one of the most popular contemporary composers until his death in 2013.

Including works from across the choir’s twenty five year collaboration, this recording is bookended with choruses from the first piece Tavener ever wrote for Cappella Nova, Resurrection.

It also features nine premiere recordings including A Buddhist Miniature, commissioned to celebrate Cappella Nova’s thirtieth anniversary in 2012, A Cradle Song and O that we were there!

A brand new commission in memory of Tavener from his pupil and friend Ivan Moody, O isplendour, also receives its premiere here.

Ikon of the Nativity and Tavener’s mesmerising and atmospheric Christmas hymn, The Lamb, with its beautiful simplicity and lush harmonies, lend a timely seasonal feel to the programme.

“do we really need another collage recording of John Tavener's choral music?...In this case, yes...The Scottish ensemble have a unique claim to champion works they themselves commissioned and premiered...Capella Nova's comparatively small forces come up rich and gloriously misty round the edges, while still achieving enough clarity to pull off the precision-work of The Lamb and Two Hadiths.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2016

“All this can be very challenging to sing, and Cappella Nova not only manage to get the notes, but surmount them with lyrical grace and very little hint of strain. Conductor Alan Tavener (a distant relation) shapes this music very effectively, and obviously has a way when it comes to instilling confidence in singers” BBC Music Magazine, February 2016 ****

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Tavener: Eternity's Sunrise

Tavener: Eternity's Sunrise


Andrew Manze (violin), Patricia Rozario & Julia Gooding (sopranos), George Mosley (baritone)

The Academy of Ancient Music, Paul Goodwin

“The performances reflect Tavener’s instruction that they should be “sung and played with restrained ecstasy” rather than excitement or melancholy, a guidance that ensured the “Funeral Canticle” made a sublimely peaceful send-off for the composer’s father.” The Independent, 8th February 2014 ****

“profoundly moving … if you have no Tavener in your collection, this could be the one.” Early Music Review, April 2014

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Tavener - Ex Maria Virgine

Tavener - Ex Maria Virgine

A Christmas Sequence for Choir and Organ


Tavener:

Ex Maria Virgine

World Première Recording

James McVinnie (organ)

Birthday Sleep

O, do not move

A Nativity

Marienhymne

World Première Recording

O Thou Gentle Light

Stefan Berkieta (baritone)

Angels

Simon Thomas Jacobs (organ)


Admired for the sheer beauty of his meditative and mystical music, John Tavener writes of his Ex Maria Virgine, which was dedicated to HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall in joyful celebration of their marriage: “I have set both familiar and less well known texts, and linked them with an expanding and contracting phrase ‘Ex Maria Virgine’. This refers to Mary the Mother of God—‘The Eternal Feminine’—and should be sung with great radiance and femininity.”

The other, mainly unaccompanied, works reveal Tavener’s response to various poetic texts that also praise the Virgin Mary.

John Rutter is the producer, editor and engineer on this disc.

“The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge is secure and precise, delivering the text with excellent diction… Strong direction from Timothy Brown.” BBC Music Magazine

“…the singing is strong and enthusiastic, even in the most taxing writing, and the sound is bright and clearly focused…” BBC Music Magazine, December 2008 ****

“Clare College Choir is outstanding throughout with a remarkable security of attack and precise intonation in chord sequences that are sometimes repetitive but never obvious. The acoustic in Norwich Cathedral is a real asset and so is this vivid recording.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2009

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Tavener - Ikon of Light

Tavener - Ikon of Light


Tavener:

Hymn to the Mother of God

Hymn for the Dormition of the Mother of God

The Lamb

The Tiger

Today the Virgin

Eonia

Ikon of Light


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Tavener: Lament for Jerusalem

Tavener: Lament for Jerusalem


Angharad Gruffydd Jones (soprano) & Peter Crawford (counter-tenor)

Choir and Orchestra of London, Jeremy Summerly

“Jerusalem is a universal symbol which signifies the changeless and celestial synthesis of the Cosmos, and the primordial longing of man for God. Lament for Jerusalem… is a love-song, lamenting our banishment from home, and the temporary loss of our Beatific vision.” Sir John Tavener

“As in much of Tavener's work, ritualistic repetition… is central. …if one accepts that this is a rite, not a dramatic, developing piece of Western symphonic music, the contained beauty can be quite mesmerizing. It's hard to imagine it better performed, or recorded.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2006 *****

“Lament was premiered in Australia in 2003 but this disc features a revised version Tavener prepared for the Choir of London's visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem in December 2004.
Tavener insists that Lament should be seen less as a statement about the current plight of Jerusalem and its inhabitants than as an elegy for humankind's exile from the soul's home, and seeks to remind us what Judaism, Christianity and Islam have in common. Through the purity of his musical gestures he achieves an intensity that can affect listeners regardless of their own religious convictions.
This revision radically reduces the forces needed, both in numbers and range of instrumentation.
While some weight is lost, along with the variety of sounds (the brass section comprises just three trumpets, the woodwind two flutes, two bassoons and oboe) this is amply compensated for by increased radiance and clarity.
The premiere recording of the full-scale Lament was recorded under Thomas Woods for ABC Classics; and even though it is almost impossible to find in the UK, to a large extent this more transparent version is preferable. The soprano part was originally taken by the marvellous Patricia Rozario but even on this count Summerly's recording need not fear comparison: Angharad Gruffydd Jones has a less distinctive voice but uses it to beautiful effect. Peter Crawford sings well too, less passionate but sweeter in tone than Christopher Josey, the countertenor on the first recording.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Naxos - 8557826

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Tavener: Missa Wellensis

Tavener: Missa Wellensis


Tavener:

Missa Wellensis

The Lord's Prayer

Love bade me welcome

Preces and Responses (Part One)

I will lift up mine eyes (Psalm 121)

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale)

Preces and Responses (Part Two)

Song for Athene

Prayer for the healing of the sick

They are all gone into the world of light


Wells Cathedral Choir under Matthew Owens explore and celebrate their long standing relationship with the late British composer Sir John Tavener (1944-2013), in a new programme centred around his 'Missa Wellensis'. The disc features several world-premiere recordings of works commissioned especially for the choir, including his 'Preces and Responses' and 'They are all gone into the world of light'.

“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 … Preces and Responses¸ the other work new to CD, elicits a reverently tender reading, with especially affecting contributions from the boy and girl choristers” BBC Music Magazine, November 2016 ****

“Owens and the Wells Cathedral Choir have built a very strong reputation, not just for the quality of their singing but also for their enterprise in commissioning significant new liturgical music. Both those traits are on display here. The performances are excellent and the recording captures the performances expertly.” MusicWeb International, 21st October 2016

“[A] fine addition to the Tavener discography … The Wells choir possesses a rich and developed tone, which Owens uses to the full in this wonderfully absorbing setting.” Choir & Organ, November/December 2016 *****

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Tavener - New Choral Works

Tavener - New Choral Works


Tavener:

Birthday Sleep

Butterfly Dreams

The Second Coming

Schuon Hymnen

As one who has slept

The Bridal Chamber

Exhortation and Kohima

Shûnya


“…there's no doubt about the quality of the performances. Tavener finds devoted interpreters in Polyphony who produce some of the most beautiful choral singing you could ever hope to hear. And all is captured in a glowing recording.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2004 *****

“As One Who Has Slept, the earliest work here, represents Tavener's most musically ascetic period, which, by 1996 was drawing to a close. The mesmeric use of dronelike chords behind and beyond the melodic lines reassures and comforts the listener during this portrait of Christ's harrowing of hell. He soon returned to a warmer palette and a wider range of techniques. In Birthday Sleep and The BridalChamber (1999) hymn-like tunes still predominate, but the voices move more independently, the harmonies are richer.
The 2001 setting of Yeats's The Second Coming is full of skilfully realised, dramatically startling gestures, but the mood is quizzical where it should describe fear-threaded apprehension, bombastic where it should be aghast with dismay.
Finally, a group of pieces completed in 2003. In Butterfly Dreams, a set of miniatures, form and content are better matched. Parts of SchuonHymnen, especially the writing for solo soprano (a glittering, heart-lifting performance by Amy Haworth) suggests music from 1950s sci-fi films: as with those films, it's easy to see how the effects are achieved, yet somehow the magic survives. Exhortation and Kohima achieves a Tudoresque splendour, while Shûnya adds elements of Buddhist ritual to the mix.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Tavener - New Choral Works

Tavener - New Choral Works


Tavener:

Birthday Sleep

Butterfly Dreams

The Second Coming

Schuon Hymnen

As one who has slept

The Bridal Chamber

Exhortation and Kohima

Shûnya


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Tavener: Song for Athene, Svyati & other choral music

Tavener: Song for Athene, Svyati & other choral music


Tavener:

God is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation)

Song for Athene

The Lamb

The Tiger

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale)

Funeral Ikos

Two Hymns to the Mother of God

Love bade me welcome

As one who has slept

The Lord's Prayer

Svyati 'O Holy One'


“If John Tavener's reputation were to rest solely on his unaccompanied choral music and nothing else, then his stature as one of the most striking and original composers working today would be just as high. Much of Tavener's creativity is founded on the traditions of his Orthodox faith and of Orthodox chant, and yet curiously, intentionally or unintentionally, he has also, through works such as those presented here, extended the tradition of English choral music. Through their popularity The Lamb, The Tiger and Songfor Athene have become immovably imbedded in our choral tradition, but one need only listen to the splendid Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, for instance, to find a unique symbiosis of Eastern and Western traditions at work.
Many of the works presented on this CD have enjoyed wide circulation on numerous Taveneronly and compilation discs, but the performances here from the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge, under the direction of Christopher Robinson, have much to recommend them and the super-budget price makes this issue especially desirable for those seeking a survey of Tavener's choral music for the first time.
Svyati for solo cello and choir, with echoes of The Protecting Veil, opens a window on Tavener's more overtly Eastern/ Orthodox-inspired music. Tim Hugh's serenely beautiful account of the solo cello part is a winner from beginning to end. The recording, made in St John's College Chapel, is resplendently atmospheric.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The Christmas Proclamation, God is with Us, is the striking first item in this collection of John Tavener's shorter choral pieces. It was inspired, like so many of Tavener's works, by Greek Orthodox liturgy, rising in a thrilling crescendo and punctuated at the end by fortissimo organ chords. The Song for Athene, well-remembered from the funeral, of Princess Diana, is here presented as an anthem rather than a processional, with the other works, including most of the favourite Tavener items, also superbly sung and atmospherically recorded” Edward Greenfield, The Guardian, December 8, 2000

“John Tavener's choral music is inspired by his Orthodox faith, and on this disc the choir…. eloquently communicate the music's timeless spirituality…[and] the composer's richly coloured blend of Eastern and Western liturgical traditions” The Telegraph

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