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Sweet ecstasy

Music by John Tavener -
reviewed by RON BIERMAN

'Recommended for those who like Tavener or Anonymous 4.'

Darkness into light. Tavener: The Bridegroom and other works. © 2002 harmonia mundi usa

This is self recommending for those who collect the music of contemporary composer John Tavener. The recording includes four of his compositions interspersed among eight pieces from the eleventh through fourteenth centuries. (One of the texts is from the fourth century.) Anonymous 4 is featured on all tracks. The Chilingirian Quartet, playing original instruments, appears in three of the Tavener works only. Both groups live up to the high expectations we have of them. The disk's unifying theme is movement from darkness to light, both as a day progresses from dusk through sunrise and as religious faith moves the believer from dark ignorance to blazing redemption.

Tavener often uses medieval techniques and religious themes. Since each of his pieces is preceded in this program by one or two early music works [listen -- track 2, 0:01-1:08], it is particularly easy to hear how he maintains a similar mood and purpose with more modern sounding melodies and harmonies [listen -- track 3, 6:58-8:01]. Reactions to the composer may well depend on one's feelings about this approach. Is it superficial and uninspired, or a creative, heartfelt way to build on a magnificent tradition. The truth is probably somewhere in between. My own view has been moving closer to the more favorable end of the spectrum as Tavener's expanding output makes it increasingly difficult to doubt his sincerity or depth of feeling.

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Copyright © 20 August 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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