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Posted October 1, 2010
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.