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Tavener: Sacred Music / Robinson, St. George's Chapel Choir

Tavener / Choir Of St George's Chapel / Robinson
Release Date: 06/11/2013 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55414  
Composer:  John Tavener
Performer:  James OxleyRoger JuddMatthew Brook
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is something rare—a composer with a voice all his own. These choral works, mostly a cappella, exist in a strange and haunting musical landscape hovering between the Anglican and the Orthodox. The result is, in a phrase from Ivan Moody's well-written liner notes, “as spiritually transparent as an ikon.“ (I usually dislike liner-note press agentry, but in this case it seems like a fair, almost objective description of the music.) My favorite pieces are Tavener's settings of Blake's The Lamb and The Tiger, both of an unearthly simplicity and lyricism. The two hymns to the Mother of God, written in memory of the composer's mother, are almost as moving. The language bears some resemblance to some of the chant-based music of Peter Maxwell Read more Davies, especially in a couple of Davies's smaller choral works. In general, Tavener's music is not as closely argued as the works of the Maxwell Davies, or of Alexander Goehr, but it is rather more substantial than the similar liturgical works of Arvo Part.

The earlier works of Tavener, who was born in 1944, were influenced by the rather hieratic music of late Stravinsky. This aesthetic stance was confirmed and strengthened when Tavener joined the Orthodox Church in 1977. According to Moody's liner notes, Tavener has “attempted to discard the heritage of humanist art (homocentric in origin and aim) and to absorb the precepts of the liturgical music of the Orthodox Tradition—that is to say, music which is theocentric.“ That is, this is stern stuff, far from the church-choir charm of Vaughan Williams or John Rutter.

The sternest, and longest (19:40), work on this collection is the Ode of St. Andrew of Crete. This ode, a repentant plea for mercy, is drawn from the Great Canon of St. Andrew, part of the Lenten readings in the Orthodox Church. Tavener's setting alternates chanting verses for solo baritone with choral repetitions of “Lord have mercy.“ The rigors are more than Lenten, both for the listener and for the performers. Any a cappella choral group trying to find these chromatic pitches for nearly twenty minutes might well cry for mercy. Impressive though it is, this piece has more to do with worship than with music.

I wouldn't make that complaint about any of the other pieces on this disc, nor would I fault any of the other performances here. I'm generally a fan of English choirs, and the Choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Chapel, under Christopher Robinson's direction, is no exception. They sing with impressive purity, accuracy, and flexibility. The recorded sound is spacious without sending the diction and detail into the cathedral ceiling.

The Lamb alone is worth the price of this disc. Tavener's is severe music, with the kind of severity that can soften our hearts.

– Scott Wheeler, Fanfare, reviewing the original Hyperion release Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Love bade me welcome by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; England 
Language: English 
2.
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis "Collegium Regale" by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; England 
3.
The Lamb "Little Lamb, who made thee?" by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; England 
Language: English 
4.
The Tyger by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987 
Language: English 
5.
Hymns (2) to the Mother of God: no 1, Hymn to the Mother of God by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1985; United Kingdom 
6.
Hymns (2) to the Mother of God: no 2, Hymn for the Dormition of the Mother of God by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; United Kingdom 
7.
Today the Virgin by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; England 
Language: English 
8.
God is with us by John Tavener
Performer:  James Oxley (Tenor), Roger Judd (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; England 
9.
The Uncreated Eros by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; England 
10.
Ode of Saint Andrew of Crete by John Tavener
Performer:  Matthew Brook (Baritone)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; England 
11.
Eonia by John Tavener
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; England 

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