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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal introduction to John Tavener
This is the John Tavener born in the 1940's, not the John Taverner (with an `R') of the 1490's. Their music is quite different, so the mistaken identity will only be made once in terms of CD purchases.

John Tavener was born in London in 1944, hence this double CD of his popular works being released in 2004 to mark his 60h birthday.

Much of the music...
Published on 25 Mar 2008 by Mart

versus
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a present for a freiend
my friend requested this cd as he was not able to purchase it abroad, I complied to his request and posted it, I am not able to comment on it
Published 11 months ago by stephen Lewarne


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal introduction to John Tavener, 25 Mar 2008
By 
Mart (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
This is the John Tavener born in the 1940's, not the John Taverner (with an `R') of the 1490's. Their music is quite different, so the mistaken identity will only be made once in terms of CD purchases.

John Tavener was born in London in 1944, hence this double CD of his popular works being released in 2004 to mark his 60h birthday.

Much of the music here is short pieces from the full works so gives a good overview to the newcomer, to whom this is directed, of the style of music produced by the composer. The range of music is varied, at times startlingly so, from the freestyle and unpredictable `Mandelion for organ' to the slightly eerie `Prayer of the Heart' with the subtle string playing of the Brodsky quartet played alongside the harshly grating sound of Bjork `singing'.

A real bonus is the 68 page booklet which provides an excellent biography of Tavener, some interesting photos, plus of course the tracklist. Also of interest is a 45 or so minute interview with Tavener on CD2.

A perfect introduction to the music of Tavener, and confirmation that Bjork really is a unique artist.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic package and bargain, 10 Feb 2004
By 
K. L. Smith (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
What a superb presentation, a great collection of music including the sublime 'Song for Athene ' along with the World Premiere of ' Prayer of the Heart ' featuring Bjork. The interview section of disc two is rather special, full of interesting stories. John Tavener is a gentle soul and comes across as an egoless gentleman, I thoughly enjoyed hearing him speak. This two disc set comes in a slip-clase and full 68 page booklet, and at very resonable price this must be the Classical bargain of the year !. This music moved me to tears... truly beautiful. Dont miss this.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding music, outstanding package, 8 Mar 2004
This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
This is how CDs ought to be presented.
The music speaks for itself - a comprehensive (albeit not definitive) overview of Taverner's work. Taverner excels at the understated and enigmatic; this collection reminds you of the strength in depth that Taverner can offer.
This was the first time I'd heard Prayer of the Heart; what a wonderful piece, with an electrifying performance by Bjork.
What really impressed me was the audio interview with Taverner and the really interesting booklet by David McCleery.
In an age where DVDs seem to come with endless extras as standard, why don't more CD publishers provide quality extras in the way that Naxos have here? The interview and essay turn a great CD into an indispensible package.
.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction., 13 Aug 2004
This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
I had only heard 'The protecting Veil' and a compilation (called 'Funeral Ikos')prior to this.
Although I cannot say that I was bowled over by the first disk (which is not to say I did not enjoy it), the second disk proved to be the reason for buying this CD. Not only is 'A prayer of the heart' magnificent, but the other pieces selected and the wonderful interview (into which the interviewer never intrudes) make this a great addition to the Tavener works I already have. To anyone interested in this man's music, I cannot recommend this highly enough. From packaging, to booklet (which contains a biography) to the all-important music, this CD is vital to anyone interested, not only in John Tavener, but in music and life in general.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viva Björk! Viva John Tavener!, 4 Mar 2004
By 
Vargiu Riccardo James (Bologna, Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
The following review is going to focus exclusively on the composition PRAYER OF THE HEART, which John Tavener wrote for Björk. It is, in John Tavener’s words, an “ejaculatory prayer” which he found to be congenial to Björk’s “raw, primordial” voice. Although the lyrics are an adaptation of a Christian Orthodox prayer, what inspired this monody was the story of an Indian monk who had been meditating for so long that he appeared to be dead. The story goes that he was about to be buried when his fellow monks realized that in reality he was in such a state of ecstasy that he had momentarily lost touch with this world.
The music itself, performed mostly by the Brodsky Quartet, is scarcely any different from a mere pedal point or, at best, a few looped chords. Against this backdrop, Björk chants a rather traditional liturgical tune to the words of Kyrie Eleison (“Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me”). In so doing, she employs three languages, one per section: Greek in the first, Coptic in the second and English in the third. Each shift from one language to the next marks a significant variation in her singing to suit the differing lines of verse, as well as to generate a sense of development and dramatic progression. The austerity of the music, far from being gratuitous, makes the slightest of variations in her intonation and in her singing style resound as powerfully as is conceivable.
The prayer starts off with a most feeble Kyrie Eleison, Björk sounding as if she were just then coming back to her senses. Each syllable, often each letter, is pronounced separately (Ky-ri-e I-i-sou Christe Ui-e The-ou El-e-i-son), and as flatly as possible, as if articulating a whole word were beyond her means, let alone giving it a lilt. Gradually, however, final syllables start being modulated, elongated, stressed: we can imagine consciousness being slowly recovered and the plea becoming more and more heartfelt as it is repeated. At this point Björk’s falsetto kicks in for the first time. She appears to be undergoing a tremendous mutation and each reiteration of that same invariable line of verse becomes increasingly powerful, out of control. Her voice conveys great courage, as if she were confronting something huge – perhaps death itself – head-on. She seems to be hoping for forgiveness, but with no fear of what may follow. Her voice delivers a sense of courage on her part, while sounding terribly menacing. It’s as if she were about to do something that’s she’s ready for, but that we are not at all.
The second section (which starts at about 5 minutes into the composition) is, perhaps, the most dramatic of PRAYER OF THE HEART. Björk employs falsetto to a large extent here, and as a result, her plea for forgiveness sounds extremely distraught. Final syllables are lengthened to their utmost, till there appears to be no air left for more, and at an extremely high pitch. This, of course, communicates a frightening sense of urgency, as if it were, literally, a life or death matter. And yet, while pressure is exceptionally high all through the second section, there seems nonetheless to be space for a strange, grave beauty. Unexpectedly, Björk uses her voice to create lovely arabesques; very gentle coloraturas, if you will, that bear a resemblance to a Middle Eastern melody. While the latter cannot honestly be described as cheerful, especially toward the end of the second section (at about 9 minutes into the prayer), they do suggest some relief, some sense of serenity.
The third and last portion, which covers the concluding 5 minutes of the composition, is calmer by far than the middle section. The overall atmosphere seems indeed to be of tranquillity and of composure. Almost all vocal elements previously exhibited come into play here as well, but each of them very, very briefly, and usually in the midst of a gentler, sweeter tune.
John Tavener’s composition, and especially his arrangement of Björk’s voice, is brilliant. It manages to draw an incredible force out of Björk, to extract an entirely new resonance out of her, while maintaining her fundamental nature perfectly intact. John Tavener and Murray Hipkin (who conducted her performance) succeed splendidly in their task: unquestionably, they manage to produce a masterpiece of a recording, a real monument to expressivity and to sentiment. Björk, who is a genius in her own right, sounds exquisite here, so intense and immaculate it only makes one regret that there couldn’t be more than one of her. Although she is anything but a classical singer, she is nonetheless convincing in this genre-smashing role. Listening to this performance makes one wish that her 1996 rendering of Schönberg's PIERROT LUANIRE were also released. How amazingly beautiful it must have been.
Before moving on to a final note on Björk, a few words need to be spent on the accompaniment. The latter is very simple. Indeed, it’s the constant reiteration of just one very short musical unit performed by the Brodsky Quartet. Over the strings, however, there is one other fundamental element, which isn’t accounted for in the booklet accompanying the box set. It’s a heartbeat-like percussion, which from the onset to the very end never varies its pace. This element adds a lot to the “organic” feel of the composition, and seems to elucidate the reference to the Eastern concept of ecstatic rapture. While vocally this supplication undergoes several phases, becoming extremely tragic on more than one occasion, the musical underpinning suggests an inevitability which is almost, if not quite, reassuring. It’s as if the prayer were taking place in a dream, as if deep sleep were soothing and muffling the tragedy of a human soul (or better yet, of the human soul). Everything, then, seems to point to the fact that ecstasy can be gained only through faith, through letting go.
Listening to this piece has given me the opportunity to reflect upon Björk’s voice and her singing style in general. Both are, without a doubt, very idiosyncratic. But what is that makes them so unique? Of course Björk’s timbre is quite peculiar, which certainly sets all her singing apart. This, however, cannot be the only explanation. A tone colour, no matter how rare, can’t possibly be responsible for such expressivity. Nor can her vocal range account for that. Although she has proven to be able to cover an impressive scale, any classically trained singer could outdo her by far in that respect, and honestly so could some jazz or even pop singers. John Tavener said he was immediately attracted to the “savage quality” of her voice, to the fact that it was never “tamed” by any training whatsoever. This, I believe, comes very close to explaining why Björk is so special, something any fan of hers knows well. There is, indeed, something wild and out of control about the way she sings. And yet, anyone who has been singing and recording since the age of 11, delving into several very different genres and ultimately creating her own, can’t seriously be regarded as lacking some training (albeit self-taught), or certainly a great deal of discipline. This notion might seem to collide with the idea that her singing is entirely free. Björk, however, is precisely the one to be able to balance such opposites.
Björk appears to be constantly “aware,” and yet never “self-conscious.” That is to say that her being perfectly tuned into her performance never results in an inhibitory state of her full potential. When she reaches a limit in her range, when her voice seems to be about to shatter or to implode, where another singer would stop in order to avoid dissonances, she perseveres in letting air flow out of her, she stretches the boundaries of her voice till there are none left to keep her down. It is in such magical moments that we are privileged to gain access not only to the core of her voice, but also to the core of the human voice itself. When this takes place, we are allowed to find out what “raw” voice is all about. Björk lets herself be a pure musical instrument for us to listen to. And it is this that no one else does as effectively and with such a glorious outcome.
[[...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 17 Feb 2014
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This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
This was choral music at its most moving and meaningful for me. At times it moved me to tears and seemed to touch my soul.
There was something so deep in it, that I can't really put it into words, except it seemed to lift me to another level.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview, 18 Nov 2013
By 
R. D. Barr "Bob Barr" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
An excellent overview of the composer's career. The interview with Tavener was especially valuable; it's good to hear someone speaking instead of reading quotations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Tavener: A Portrait, 10 July 2014
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This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
Just, and Simply SUPERB. One to treasure.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written in Heaven, 21 May 2004
This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
Well, what can I say. This album is just beautiful.
Listen to "Song For Athene". This is such a wonderful piece of music, it must be written in Heaven. There are simply no words for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 12 Dec 2014
By 
B. E. Evans "book mad" (shropshire england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Tavener: A Portrait (Audio CD)
Breathless beauty.
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