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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Tavener returns with warmer, richer music, 6 Dec 2008
This review is from: Tavener: Ex Maria Virgine (Audio CD)
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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sacred and sublime, 28 Dec 2008
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This review is from: Tavener: Ex Maria Virgine (Audio CD)
I'm hard pressed to think of another contemporary composer presently writing more challenging and beautiful choral music than John Tavener. Whether he's adapting existing ancient melodies or setting various poetic texts to music, the British-born musician has shown a special knack for imbuing his vocal pieces with a meditative and mystical ambience. His latest CD, "Ex Maria Virgine," is no exception. Described as a "Christmas sequence for choir and orchestra," it's a 10-part work, completed in 2005, that evokes Tavener's deep religious faith through a celebration of the Virgin Mary. And it does so in his usual idiosyncratic fashion. Tavener eschews the static nature of most choral music for a variegated and dynamic range of harmonic and rhythmic patterns of breathtaking intensity. The pieces range from stately (Verbum Caro) to discordant (Nowell! Nowell! Out of Your Sleep) to beatific (Rocking). Tavener creates some of the most gorgeous melodies imaginable, but with a lyrical astringency that darkens and complicates them in wonderful ways. His music thus bridges tradition and modernism, and imbues even the most sacred musical moments with a vibrant, almost brash immediacy. Rounding out this collection are six additional songs set to religious texts, all of them brought to life through the dazzling performance of the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge under the supple and knowing direction of Timothy Brown. This is holiday music of uncommon power and beauty that transcends its seasonal context to provide emotional and spiritual sustenance throughout the year.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcendent music, 10 Nov 2009
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Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tavener: Ex Maria Virgine (Audio CD)
I got this when it first came out about a year ago and I did not warm to it and put it away, Returning to it, I am now entranced with it.

Ex Maria Virgine starts off with i) the creepy "Verbum Caro", moves through an eccentric variant of ii) "Nowell, Nowell"; then it moves to the iii) meditative "Remember O thou Man" interspersed with exclamatory music in contrast to the mediation, resting on iv)the lovely "Sweet was the song", moving up several gears to the v) aggressively sounding "Ave rex" punctuated with the organ; moving back to a more restful and ethereal state of vi) "There is no rose", moving to vii) the zany "ding dong", moving to the viii) beautiful lullaby "Rocking", and further lovely tune ix) "Unto us is born a Son" punctutated with ecstatic reaching for the skies and ending with x) the creepy "Verbum Caro". The rest of the album is also lovely but I would single out "Angels" with its tremolo organ playing.
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Tavener: Ex Maria Virgine
Tavener: Ex Maria Virgine by John Tavener (Audio CD - 2008)
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