Tavener (The) Protecting Veil; Wake Up...and Die

Author: 
Michael Stewart

Tavener (The) Protecting Veil; Wake Up...and Die

  • (The) Protecting Veil
  • Wake Up...And Die
  • (The) Protecting Veil
  • Wake Up...And Die

This is now the third recording of The Protecting Veil to appear since Steven Isserlis’s Gramophone Award-winning premiere recording on Virgin Classics. It’s hardly surprising – not only because of the work’s immense popularity with the public, but also because it is a superb vehicle, both technically and interpretatively, for any cellist to have in their repertoire.
As expected, Yo-Yo Ma brings us a reading of tremendous stature and technical refinement which is a serious rival to Isserlis’s equally remarkable account. However, whether Isserlis is preferable to Ma or vice versa seems to me irrelevant; what is essential is that the work continues to live and grow through performance, and with a piece such as The Protecting Veil the interpretative scope for the soloist is wide indeed. Ma’s version is quite different from Isserlis’s in many ways. Isserlis takes the opening of the work (“The Protecting Veil” section) slightly faster and certainly with more passionate phrasing than Ma, whose pacing in the corresponding bars is altogether more static, though he still matches Isserlis in intensity. He is complemented by the strings of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under David Zinman, who play more forcefully here than do the LSO under Rozhdestvensky. Tavener’s comment that “the strings should act as a vast resonating chamber for the solo cello” is fully realized and the effect is at times quite awesome. Particularly beautiful is Ma’s reading of “The Dormition of the Mother of God” section.
Wake up … And Die (its curious title is derived from a Randy Newman song called Old Man), for cello solo and orchestral cello section, is a 20-minute work in two parts. The Byzantine, chant-like opening section for solo cello has great beauty and the second half of the work, with cello section harmonically supporting the solo cello with its hypnotic repeating episodes, is quite spell-binding. This is a piece that will quickly find admirers who are familiar with Tavener’s unique sound world.
Steven Isserlis’s reading of The Protecting Veil remains a must, but I do urge anyone considering a second version of this work to investigate this thoroughly recommendable newcomer without delay. The recording is vivid and well balanced.'

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