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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plainchant and Contemplation
John Tavener has, since his conversion to the Russian Orthodox church in 1977, been ever more influenced by the forms and modes of both Slavic church and the wider culture. Indeed, he has explicitly expressed a desire to rid himself wholly of all the western influences of his upbringing.
This record marks the high point of Tavener's wider popularity and, with...
Published on 26 Jan. 2006 by Keith Harrison

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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plainchant and Contemplation, 26 Jan. 2006
By 
Keith Harrison "Endie" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tavener - Svyati (Audio CD)
John Tavener has, since his conversion to the Russian Orthodox church in 1977, been ever more influenced by the forms and modes of both Slavic church and the wider culture. Indeed, he has explicitly expressed a desire to rid himself wholly of all the western influences of his upbringing.
This record marks the high point of Tavener's wider popularity and, with his earlier "The Protecting Veil", it is amongst his most accessible releases. Indeed, in 1997, this CD was nominated for the Mercury Music prize.
The title piece, Svyati ("Oh Holy One") comprises fourteen minutes of the most beautiful and poignant music Tavener has created. It is scored for only a cello and choir, where the cello represents the Ikon of Christ, interacting with the choir in the manner of dialogue in greek drama. Indeed, it is intended to be performed with the soloist seated far from the choir, preferably at the other end of a hall.
The text is in Church Slavonic, and although it is used in many services, Tavener had in mind the funeral service, where it is chanted after the congregation has kissed the body, and as the lid of the coffin is closed and carried from the church. The cello sustains long, single notes across an astonishing range: sometimes as the deep foundation, far above which the choir sings, sometimes carrying the melody above the constant plainchant-drone of the most profundo of basses.
Whenever I hear this piece, I cannot help wondering how it would sound performed beneath the dome of the Hagia Sophia. I make no apology for mixing my orthodoxies! I am only surprised that Hollywood has never, to my knowledge, made use of it.
The three following tracks, Eternal Memory I, II & III, although adding several more violins and violas, continue in much the same tone as Svyati. But then come the six Akhmatova songs, inspired by texts of the long-banned Russian poetess (a previous Tavener setting of her words, when performed in London in the 80's, saw two KGB officers appear before the performance and threaten the Russian conductor, who bravely ignored them).
These six songs, for soprano soloist, choir and strings, are deeply Slavic in sound. But they are very different from Svyati itself, and many people who buy this release having heard the title track may have to work a little harder at these more challenging pieces.
The penultimate track, weighing in at a hefty 25 minutes, is "The hidden treasure". Here, the combination of modernism and the Orthodox modes are most noticeable, with Tavener often toying with atonalism and his earlier collagist forms, but always returning speedily to pure, sung melody. It is music to read to: beautiful, calm but not attention-seeking.
Finally is the short Chanti, which despite the name is scored for a solo violin. This is undoubtedly the most western-sounding of the pieces collected here.
A beautiful collection, this would be worth the price for the title track alone.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tavener at His Most Accessible, 13 April 2014
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Richard Newbold (Leicestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tavener - Svyati (Audio CD)
I have to confess to being a little bit "Classic FM" with John Tavener's works; I understand the dominant motifs of his orthodox faith, the key to spirituality and the access to it through meditation, but I struggle to listen to recordings of his works in toto. This compilation of works, including Svyati, a commission by cellist Steven Isserlis is probably the most accessible, much to my taste is the exquisite interplay of cello and choir exhibited. The haunting Akhmatova songs must be blissful to listen to in a suitable church setting, here long time collaborator Patricia Rozario's performance captures their spirit beautifully. As I say, one to dip in to as the mood takes.
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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star, 4 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Tavener - Svyati (Audio CD)
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