This disc has been released - Rock Album Style - before the main work `Ex Maria Virgine' has been given it's first complete performance on 12th December 2008.
This is a very good album of John Tavener's Choral music, and a better one that the 2000 Naxos Disc including `Song for Athene`. Fellow composer John Rutter has done an excellent job here as Producer and engineer. The ethereal sound captured on the previous disc is evident, but with a warmth and richness of tone added.
Tavener has added warmth and richness to his songs as well. The older sources are here: 16th Century British Choral music and Eastern Orthodox influences. To these he has added a whole host of new colours and shades. Best of all Tavener has added the leaven of good humour to his seriousness of intent. With `Nowell! Nowell! Out of your sleep' he even lets fly with a rollicking good tune. The sort John Rutter likes to serve up in his own work.
The main work here 'Ex Maria Virgine' is an enjoyable cycle of 9 songs, with Verbum Caro appearing at beginning and end. It was composed in 2005 for a commission by the Choir of Clare College Cambridge and their director Timothy Brown: the forces that perform it here. It is dedicated ' A wedding present for, and dedicated to, HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall in joyful celebration of their marriage'. However it is definitely Christmas, not marriage music.
In it John mixes the most used and most commonplace: `There is no rose`, `Ding Dong merrily on high`, and the `Rocking carol' with the less well known. On one level the music uses traditional Christmas language, but on another he seems to be saying "Look, haven't you noticed how strange a feast this is - how strange to believe that God became man". He doesn't kick the crib and the christmas tree to one side, but the music says "look deeper, look higher".
The six other hymns that complete the disc are in similar vein. The maturing in Tavener's style can be heard from the earlier mid 80's ones to the most recent from 2005.
Overall a highly enjoyable disc. It will appeal to a wide range of people. At this price it is a good stocking filler for everyone from lovers of traditional Christmas music to the lovers of modern choral music.