TAVENER TITILLATES!!!Fretwork makes its 'harmonia mundi' debut in this innovative program ranging from first recordings of music for countertenor and viols by John Tavener-THE HIDDEN FACE; NIPSON; APOKATASIS- to consort pieces by Tudor and Jacobean masters. Countertenor Michael Chance is also heard in a NEW arrangement of Purcell's sublime anthem, 'AN EVENING HYMN'.
So many good things on this CD I hardly know where to begin, but I'll start by saying that every selection on it is like a divine revelation! The music is exotic as one would expect from Tavener who preceded this music by the "Fall and Resurrection" from which he extracted the theme for "The Hidden Face". And a hypnotic melody it is! "The Hidden Face" is a prayer, for solo countertenor,oboe, and a distant group of muted violins and viols.
It deals with the Eastern Orthodox concept of prayer, which is from the heart. 'The mind must have gone into the heart....It is almost impossible now to hear the Divine Voice. We have to cast off all the received, intellectual, sophistocated garbage, and also the preconceived knowledge of God that modern man has diastrously collected, and listen with a heart that has become so soft that the Face is no longer Hidden'...Thus speaks John Tavener. Interesting concept, but his music more than his words impress!
The disc also includes two other selections involving the countertenor voice with viols:"Apokatastasis" also features Tibetan bowls; the word means: a spititual state of ecstasy.
"Nipson" is the title of the second selection and refers to "cleansing the sins." The music falls into six sections, the first and last of which are a PALEINDROMIC a setting of a Byzantine palindrome (reads the same backwards as forwards) engraved over a public fountain in Constantinople. It is also an ikon of glory and repentance. The concept of inner silence is present throughout, as the composer contemplates his sins whether voluntary or involuntary, manifest, or hiddden: "Have Mercy upon me, Oh God, have mercy upon me."
But let's mention the skill it takes for the singer to sing these Tavener tunes. It has to be someone like Michael Chance to handle them for he does bear the brunt of the work on this album. Much vocal flexibility is involved, in addition to a refined ability to hear the semi-tones and quarter-tones present in the music. One must also take note of the skill required for Daniel(oboe) and Chance (countertenor) to keep their respective pitches stable in not only the harmonic passages, but particularly in the unision parts. They are both one-hundred percent successful. Just wonderful performing all the way! Oboe player Nicholas Daniel, in 'Hidden Face' is sure-footed and skilled as he plays this very difficult part with finesse. The closing arrangement of Purcell's "An Evening Hymn" is a refreshing contrast to what comes before.
Fretwork is a skilled group of six viols and as per usual performs accurately and creatively. I've had this CD for quite a while and I never get tired of hearing it. Buy and enjoy!
I do hope that this very fine album does not disappear from sight; it was recorded in 2000, so it seems to me that it should be reissued some time soon.