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John Tavener: Choral Ikons / James Whitbourn

Audio Samples

>Tavener, John : The Lamb "Little Lamb, who made thee?"
>Tavener, John : Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, for chorus
>Tavener, John : Hymns (2) to the Mother of God
>     A Hymn to the Mother of God
>Tavener, John : Song for Athene
>Tavener, John : Annunciation
>Tavener, John : Parting Gift for Tam Farrow, for chorus
>Tavener, John : As one who has slept, for chorus
>Tavener, John : The Tyger, for chorus
>Tavener, John : Hymn of the Unwaning Light, for chorus
>Tavener, John : The Lord's Prayer, for chorus (1999)

Album Summary

>Tavener, John : The Lamb "Little Lamb, who made thee?"
>Tavener, John : Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, for chorus
>Tavener, John : Hymns (2) to the Mother of God
>Tavener, John : Song for Athene
>Tavener, John : Annunciation
>Tavener, John : Parting Gift for Tam Farrow, for chorus
>Tavener, John : As one who has slept, for chorus
>Tavener, John : The Tyger, for chorus
>Tavener, John : Hymn of the Unwaning Light, for chorus
>Tavener, John : The Lord's Prayer, for chorus (1999)
Performers Conductor Ensemble
  • >
Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"James Whitbourn's singers, seasoned yet still young, robustly engage with compositions that many groups treat with bloodless reverence...Those who like their Tavener pure and ethereal should not be deterred from tasting The Choir's more muscular approach to the composer's work. The tonal weight and emotional conviction of their performance opens fresh perspectives on familiar works." -Classic FM

MusicWeb International
this collection is an excellent - and representative - starting point... the music is well served by James Whitbourn and the fourteen singers who make up his ensemble, The Choir. They sing Tavener's music very well indeed and they are atmospherically yet clearly recorded. The 'blurb' on the back of the CD describes this music as "hauntingly beautiful" and I think that's a pretty fair description, especially of the gently prayerful setting of The Lord's Prayer and As one who has slept. There are quite a number of collections of Tavener's choral music in the CD catalogue but this is as good as any I've heard.

American Record Guide
Venues for recording were split between a studio in The Netherlands and St Alban's Abbey in Britain. The booklet doesn't say which selections were recorded where, but some of them are reverberant to the point of losing their texts and even their overall shape. 'As One Who Has Slept' is all undifferentiated sound. Ditto 'Hymn to the Mother of God'. Mind you, Tavener's music is all about accessing the inner world through the power of beautiful sounds, so I wouldn't knock off too many points for this. But if you find the composer a little vaporous in the first place, the fuzzy sonics here might come close to overdoing it... Opus Arte supplies notes and texts to accompany The Choir's beautiful sounds.

Gramophone
The clue is not to over-dramatise the musical content - after all, Tavener is projecting a musical image, not telling a story - and The Choir thrive on the more expansive and extended images, such as Song for Athene and The Hymn of the Unwaning Light. The former is especially well shaped and controlled, although the singers appear to hold back a little when the music finally bursts into life towards the end of this song. Difficult harmonic shifts are skilfully negotiated in Annunciation and A Hymn to the Mother of God, despite the latter's lines not being as smoothly integrated as on Harry Christophers and The Sixteen's earlier recording (Collins Classics - nla). Ensuring that a correct balance is maintained between a sound that is not too saccharine on the one hand or too visceral on the other is often the most difficult task here. The Lamb serves as a useful case study. The soft tones of the Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor, under Christopher Robinson (Hyperion) manage to depict the lamb's innocent beauty, but Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars' more powerful projection (Gimell, 6/91) drives home William Blake's message. In negotiating a path somewhere between the two, "Choral Ikons" gets it just about right.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000).



Reviews

Exquisite Ikons convey Western religious symbolism

While the cover for this recording depicts Byzantine ikons, the message for the Western faithful soars above the ikonic portrayal of the subjects. These ikons are described as unique for the Orthodox faith, carrying special meanings for the worshipper. Each composition represents a very specific religious symbol or event, exquisitely expressed by Sir John Tavener.


Presented a capella in English by The Choir, a British mixed chorus, each composition bears unique inspiration and message for the listener. Each piece represents a personage or individual in Tavener’s faith, which he characterizes as ikons as used in Orthodox religions. To those with other beliefs, the songs easily translate to symbols used in the Western tradition, evoking emotion and contemplation for the listener.


The voices of The Choir blend seamlessly, beckoning the hearer on to each phrase and cadence. In “Unwaning Light” the words are not intelligible, possibly from having the microphone too far away from Michael Burke. It is helpful in all the pieces to have the English text at hand to catch the words.
Poetry by Blake, Shakespeare, and biblical texts convey mystic contemplation, praise, awe, faith, contrition, and sorrow. “Song for Athene” (sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales), “…Tam Farrow”, and “As One who has Slept” reduce us to sorrow even without knowing the titles or text.


“The Lamb” is beautiful as presented in a church service at any time of year, but is especially welcome during Advent, or for a baptism. “Magnificat” is generally thought of during Advent, also, but the wording of the canticle of Mary is appropriate for worship at any time; the dissonances make it sound more Eastern than several of the other pieces. Each composition conveys its ethereal poetry appropriately in the Western sanctuary as well as the Eastern setting.


If Sir John Tavener’s hope is to convey “an inner vision” of his beliefs and feelings, these pieces have measured up to his desires. His efforts enrich the religious experience for any who wish to receive the beauty of his compositions.

Submitted on 08/12/11 by howsweetthesound 
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Works Details

>Tavener, John : The Lamb "Little Lamb, who made thee?"
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 8 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1982

>Tavener, John : Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, for chorus
  • Performer: Claire Tomlin (Voice)
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 9 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1986

>Tavener, John : Hymns (2) to the Mother of God :: A Hymn to the Mother of God
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1985

>Tavener, John : Song for Athene
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 16 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1993

>Tavener, John : Annunciation
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 48 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1992

>Tavener, John : Parting Gift for Tam Farrow, for chorus
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 59 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2000

>Tavener, John : As one who has slept, for chorus
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 10 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1996

>Tavener, John : The Tyger, for chorus
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 42 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1987

>Tavener, John : Hymn of the Unwaning Light, for chorus
  • Performer: Michael Burke (Voice)
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 23 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1996

>Tavener, John : The Lord's Prayer, for chorus (1999)
  • Conductor: James Whitbourn
  • Notes: St. Albans Abbey, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (07/2000); TV Support Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands (07/2000)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1999