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John Tavener: Choral Ikons

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Chorals Ikons was originally released by Opus Arte as a DVD that included an hour of performances of John Tavener's choral pieces accompanied by visual images of the Hagia Sophia, interspersed with commentary by the composer and Dutch art historian Robert Roozemond, who discusses icons and iconography. The CD release is made up of all the music for the CD, 11 of the composer's most popular a cappella anthems, written between 1982 and 2000. The music is almost entirely in the contemplative mood -- harmonically unhurried with the abundant use of drones, and with ethereal drifting melodies -- that characterized much of the composer's work from that period, so it should make...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Chorals Ikons was originally released by Opus Arte as a DVD that included an hour of performances of John Tavener's choral pieces accompanied by visual images of the Hagia Sophia, interspersed with commentary by the composer and Dutch art historian Robert Roozemond, who discusses icons and iconography. The CD release is made up of all the music for the CD, 11 of the composer's most popular a cappella anthems, written between 1982 and 2000. The music is almost entirely in the contemplative mood -- harmonically unhurried with the abundant use of drones, and with ethereal drifting melodies -- that characterized much of the composer's work from that period, so it should make a fine introduction to Tavener for listeners looking to explore his work, as well as for anyone looking for an album of meditative modern choral works. Some of Tavener's most celebrated pieces, like widely recorded "The Lamb" and "Song for Athene," are included, as well as less familiar works, like "Parting Gift for Tam Farrow," recorded here for the first time. James Whitbourn leads The Choir in intense, committed performances. The choral sound is not always clean, probably because of the acoustic of the recording space, which is troublesome on some but not all tracks. The male soloists are less than ideal, and their heavy vibrato detracts from the overall impact of the performances. The reverberant sound quality is more effective in some pieces than others. The CD has its strengths, but these performances would probably come off most effectively in the video context in which they were conceived.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/29/2011
  • Label: Bbc / Opus Arte
  • UPC: 809478090076
  • Catalog Number: 9007
  • Sales rank: 202,960

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 The Lamb, for chorus - John Tavener & William Blake (3:08)
  2. 2–3 Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, for chorus - John Tavener & Hans Petri (9:43)
  3. 3 Hymns (2) to the Mother of God, for chorus: A Hymn to the Mother of God - John Tavener & Hans Petri (3:01)
  4. 4 Song for Athene, for chorus - John Tavener & Hans Petri (7:16)
  5. 5 Annunciation, for SATB soloists & chorus - John Tavener & Hans Petri (5:48)
  6. 6 As one who has slept, for chorus - John Tavener & Hans Petri (4:10)
  7. 7 The Tyger, for chorus - John Tavener & William Blake (5:42)
  8. 8 The Lord's Prayer, for chorus (1999) - John Tavener & Hans Petri (4:12)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
James Whitbourn Primary Artist
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 12, 2011

    Exquisite Ikons convey Western religious symbolism

    While the cover for this recording depicts Byzantine ikons, the message for the Western faithful soars above the ikonic portrayal of the subjects. These ikons are described as unique for the Orthodox faith, carrying special meanings for the worshipper. Each composition represents a very specific religious symbol or event, exquisitely expressed by Sir John Tavener.

    Presented a capella in English by The Choir, a British mixed chorus, each composition bears unique inspiration and message for the listener. Each piece represents a personage or individual in Tavener's faith, which he characterizes as ikons as used in Orthodox religions. To those with other beliefs, the songs easily translate to symbols used in the Western tradition, evoking emotion and contemplation for the listener.

    The voices of The Choir blend seamlessly, beckoning the hearer on to each phrase and cadence. In "Unwaning Light" the words are not intelligible, possibly from having the microphone too far away from Michael Burke. It is helpful in all the pieces to have the English text at hand to catch the words.

    Poetry by Blake, Shakespeare, and biblical texts convey mystic contemplation, praise, awe, faith, contrition, and sorrow. "Song for Athene" (sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales), ".Tam Farrow", and "As One who has Slept" reduce us to sorrow even without knowing the titles or text.

    "The Lamb" is beautiful as presented in a church service at any time of year, but is especially welcome during Advent, or for a baptism. "Magnificat" is generally thought of during Advent, also, but the wording of the canticle of Mary is appropriate for worship at any time; the dissonances make it sound more Eastern than several of the other pieces. Each composition conveys its ethereal poetry appropriately in the Western sanctuary as well as the Eastern setting.

    If Sir John Tavener's hope is to convey "an inner vision" of his beliefs and feelings, these pieces have measured up to his desires. His efforts enrich the religious experience for any who wish to receive the beauty of his compositions.

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