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CD Review

John Tavener

  • Birthday Sleep
  • Butterfly Dreams
  • The Second Coming
  • Schuon Hymnen
  • As one who has slept
  • The Bridal Chamber
  • Exhortation and Kohima
  • Shunya
Polyphony/Stephen Layton
Hyperion CDA67475 75m DDD
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Also released on Hybrid Multichannel SACD SACDA67475
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan

John Tavener is established as one of the most popular and most mystic composers of our times. He shot to worldwide stardom (not that he wasn't already a legend) after composing some music for the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997 although he has not been so prolific as of late. This latest offering from Hyperion is full of first recordings and is chiefly composed of choral works influenced by the Orient and other mystic themes.

'Birthday Sleep' is at once ravishingly beautiful, calm and composed whilst 'Butterfly Dreams' is composed of eight short poems including a number of 'haiku' or brief Japanese poetry. Again, one is transported by the aromatic sensuality that Tavener creates, almost a harking back to the past of glorious lore. 'The Second Coming' dates from 2001 and is similarly quiet although the climax of the work is also hair-raising.

Four of the works date from 2003 and these include 'Butterfly Dreams', 'Schuon Hymnen', 'Exhortation and Kohima' and 'Shunya'. The latter two are wonderful pieces, full of rapt poetry and emotionally charged music. The rest of the disc contains earlier works but they are all of a piece and no less stimulating than their recent counterparts.

Hyperion's recording is kind to the exquisite sounds of Polyphony and Stephen Layton's inspired direction. I was bowled over by Tavener's wonderful music which is now one of the most exciting musical prospects around. This is definitely one of the contenders for contemporary recording of the year.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech