Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, February 2012

this collection is an excellent—and representative—starting point…the music is well served by James Whitbourn and the fourteen singers who make up his ensemble, The Choir. They sing Tavener’s music very well indeed and they are atmospherically yet clearly recorded. The ‘blurb’ on the back of the CD describes this music as “hauntingly beautiful” and I think that’s a pretty fair description, especially of the gently prayerful setting of The Lord’s Prayer and As one who has slept. There are quite a number of collections of Tavener’s choral music in the CD catalogue but this is as good as any I’ve heard. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Pwyll ap SiƓn
Gramophone, July 2011

Tavener’s musical images in shapely, balanced performances

In much the same way that religious icons provide a gateway to the Divine, Sir John Tavener’s music also functions as a “window of sound” onto this world. A number of his most striking examples are contained on this remastered recording on Opus Arte of choral music from The Choir directed by James Whitbourn.

The clue is not to over-dramatise the musical content—after all, Tavener is projecting a musical image, not telling a story—and The Choir thrive on the more expansive and extended images, such as Song for Athene and The Hymn of the Unwaning Light. The former is especially well shaped and controlled, although the singers appear to hold back a little when the music finally bursts into life towards the end of this song. Difficult harmonic shifts are skilfully negotiated in Annunciation and A Hymn to the Mother of God, despite the latter’s lines not being as smoothly integrated as on Harry Christophers and The Sixteen’s earlier recording (Collins Classics—nla). Ensuring that a correct balance is maintained between a sound that is not too saccharine on the one hand or too visceral on the other is often the most difficult task here. The Lamb serves as a useful case study. The soft tones of the Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, under Christopher Robinson (Hyperion) manage to depict the lamb’s innocent beauty, but Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars’ more powerful projection (Gimell, 6/91) drives home William Blake’s message. In negotiating a path somewhere between the two, “Choral Ikons” gets it just about right.

Philip Greenfield
American Record Guide, July 2011

Choral Ikons isn’t a fanciful title; it’s actually a good description of Tavener’s vocal music. At his best, Sir John does indeed create picture windows of sound opening out onto beautiful and serene spiritual landscapes. Here those rapt images are crafted by The Choir, a London-based chamber ensemble of 14 men and women drawn from England’s pre-eminent music schools and chapel choirs. The group creates choral sounds that are absolutely gorgeous, so the prime requirement for entry into the composer’s spiritual world is met.

Venues for recording were split between a studio in The Netherlands and St Alban’s Abbey in Britain. The booklet doesn’t say which selections were recorded where, but some of them are reverberant to the point of losing their texts and even their overall shape. ‘As One Who Has Slept’ is all undifferentiated sound. Ditto ‘Hymn to the Mother of God’. Mind you, Tavener’s music is all about accessing the inner world through the power of beautiful sounds, so I wouldn’t knock off too many points for this. But if you find the composer a little vaporous in the first place, the fuzzy sonics here might come close to overdoing it.

…Opus Arte supplies notes and texts to accompany The Choir’s beautiful sounds.

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, April 2011

A phenomenally beautiful disc of the choral music of Sir John Tavener, the knighted 66-year-old British composer of works of unearthly spiritual beauty who has spent a lifetime battling various illnesses and physical conditions and seems to embody earthly transcendance in the music he composes. His music, as is the case here, is rooted in his Eastern Orthodox faith. He writes here, “I see music as a ‘window of sound’ onto the Divine World which is eternal and therefore universal.” Which is why his international listeners have been no more sectarian than those who listen to Arvo Part. This is a reissue of one of the greatest Tavener recordings, originally made in 2000 to accompany a DVD.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group