Tavener New Choral Works
As One Who Has Slept, the earliest work here, represents Tavener’s most musically ascetic period, which, by 1996, was drawing to a close. His mesmeric use of drone-like chords behind and beyond the melodic lines reassures and comforts the listener during this portrait of Christ’s harrowing of hell.
Tavener soon returned to a warmer palette and a wider range of techniques. In Birthday Sleep and The Bridal Chamber (1999) hymn-like tunes still predominate, but the voices move more independently, the harmonies are richer. The brilliant, white, celestial light Tavener so effectively evoked earlier in the decade had a chill core. Here – if you will bear with the synaesthesiac overtones – gold seeps in, along with the deep blue traditionally associated with portraits of the Virgin.
The 2001 setting of Yeats’s The Second Coming is full of skilfully realised, dramatically startling gestures, but I feel the mood is crucially misjudged. It’s quizzical where it should describe fear-threaded apprehension, bombastic where it should be aghast with dismay.
In Butterfly Dreams, a set of miniatures, form and content are better matched. Parts of Schuon Hymnen, 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. All these pieces were completed in 2003. Apart from As One Who Has Slept and The Bridal Chamber, all are première recordings.