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Tavener cautions us in the liner notes not to expect anything 'dramatic in the Western sense', and so the treble repeats his phrase to launch all Paul's verses. Does the spell lose thereby some of its effect, or will it so haunt us that it will come to mind whenever we hear those most repeated verses of the Bible? The last part of Total Eclipse treats of the second coming and tellingly resurrects the crucifixion music in less violent form [listen -- track 1, 33:28-34:28].

The work was first heard in St Paul's own cathedral, and in such a building it rightly belongs, rather than in the Temple Church, where it was recorded, or in the restricted space of our drawing-rooms.

The poem of Agraphon (1995) was written by Angelos Sikelianos in 1941 when Greece was under the German jackboot. It enshrines a tradition about Christ of unknown source. This time the narrator protagonist is the soprano Patricia Rozario, who tells the strange story of Jesus and his disciples walking by the garbage dump outside the walls of Zion. On top of the rubbish is the carcase of a dog, graphically described in the music [listen -- track 2, 3:17-4:11].

Patricia Rozario has to cover an immense range as the equivalent of the Pauline saxophone in Total Eclipse. Christ lingers by the macabre scene and directs his gaze at the dog's glittering teeth, where the music strikes spitting sparks hinting at some 'mirror of the Eternal'. Tavener indulges again his subterranean rumblings and sequences of 7th chords, but the music attains a moment of serenity as 'the very least of men', walking through the terrible stench of occupied Athens, beseeches an instant of 'Your holy calm' [listen -- track 2, 12:22-13:30]. If Tavener can sometimes seem a victim of his own mannerisms, the performers under Paul Goodwin have done him proud.

Copyright © 3 March 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK







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