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on 14 March 2006
This review may appear to be in reverse, but first my congratulations have to go to the sound engineer Eleanor Thomason and producer Andrew Walton. John Tavener’s works can stretch the art of recording to breaking point, as it strives to find a balance between an accurate record of the sound on location and a sound that is comfortable to listen to at home. The otherwise excellent Naxos disc of John Tavener’s Choral Works suffered in this regard. Here they have come up with a clear sound with a rich undertone to it, audibly recorded in a church without being at all distant or indistinct at the edges.
Tavener breaks no new ground here in this work for voices and small orchestra. Rather as with his huge choral work ‘The Veil of the Temple’ composed a few years earlier, there is a sense that he is using the whole of his musical career so far as a quarry for this edifice. Whereas The Veil of the Temple sounded like a collage of the high points of his journey, Lament For Jerusalem is a distilling of its essence. Where The Viel of the Temple sounded like pilgrimage, Lament for Jerusalem sounds like arrival.
If you have never heard John Tavener, what does this sound like? The classical English Choral tradition is all pervading, but with Russian and Middle Eastern accents. The style is not so far from the richer voice of Arvo Part from about 1990 onwards. The sleeve notes have a comparison with Steve Reich, but quite frankly Tavener is a more accomplished composer, and his influences are far more deeply integrated into his vision.
Finally to the subject of the work. The Lament in the title is that of Jesus when he looks over Jerusalem shortly before his death and laments that it has rejected every messenger God has sent it. The work is in seven cycles in which the Lament gradually unfolds, another line being added to the text in each cycle until it is complete. The repetition is both a musical means; with each cycle being a gradual elaboration on the last within a severe but beautiful musical language, and the bearer of the music’s message of God’s faithfulness despite human failing. Much has been made of Tavener’s progression from Russian Orthodox Christian Faith to a more Universal outlook, but the content of this work is purely Christian; the texts from other religions used here only serve to underline the work’s central theme.
This version of the work is that used on a tour of Israel/Palestine by the artists here, the Orchestra and choir of London. It was specially prepared by the composer for those forces and the Palestinian and Israeli musicians who worked with them. This recording is an impressive achievement; it is a near perfect realisation of the work.
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on 23 November 2013
Maybe 20th centuary Taverner is not for everybody might it does grow on you.This was in very good condition as stated and was delivered in reasonable time.
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on 25 February 2008
This atmospheric piece of music has its charms but I am not sure that it is geat music.
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