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CD Review

John Tavener

Schuon Lieder

Patricia Rozario, soprano
Gillian McDonagh, Tibetan temple bells
Schubert Ensemble of London
Black Box BBM1101 63m
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Sir John Taverner's most fascinating aspect is his indefatigable search for a deeper and more mystic meaning to the complexities of this life and beyond. Nearly all his works are inspired by this so-called vision and these Lieder are no exception. He had already started to investigate Frithoj Schuon's philosophical writings in the 1990's and by the time of the poet's death in 1998 he began feeling a certain spiritual affinity which compelled him to start accepting the other world religions, other than his Russian Orthodox Christian, in a different light. Soon after Schuon's demise, Tavener contacted his widow Catherine and at the same time started reading some of the 3000 poems written during the last four years of his long life (Schuon died aged 91).

These Lieder are dedicated to Schuon's widow and are the result of this experience, which in Taverner's own words, affected not only the music but also his religious attitudes. The composer set just 19 of Schuon's poems, but in doing so he not only captured the 'sacred erotic nature' of the poet's late vision, but also communicates something of his inner self in music that is pure, powerful and elementarily beautiful.

The hour-long work written in 2003 calls for very small forces – just a soprano, four Tibetan temple bells and a string quartet. The soloist and five instrumentalists cope admirably with the myriad of technical difficulties presented by the score, and considering that this is the work's première recording, they have created an outstanding performance which will take truly something special to surpass it. Another intimate and profound addition to Sir John's ever growing canon of personal outpourings.

Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech