Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:


Selected choral works
God is with us-Christmas Proclamation, Song for Athene, The Lamb, The Tiger, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, Funeral Ikos, Two Hymns to the Mother of God, Love bade me welcome, As One who has slept, The Lord's Prayer, Svyati-"O Holy One".
Choir of St John's College, Cambridge-Christopher Robinson
Naxos 8.555256 [69:58]


Sir John Tavener (born I believe in 1944 and not 1945 as indicated on the cover) must surely be one of our most commercially recorded contemporary composers, but this disc represents a very useful anthology of his smaller scale choral works written between 1985 (Love Bade Me Welcome and the well known Two Hymns to the Mother of God) and 1999 (The Lord's Prayer).

The composer's conversion to the Greek Orthodox faith has been well documented and the works featured are understandably heavily imbued with the atmosphere of the largely sacred texts set albeit interwoven with Shakespeare's Hamlet in the case of Song for Athene, the two Blake settings The Tiger and The Lamb and George Herbert in Love bade me welcome.

Many of the works have been recorded elsewhere and will be well known to Tavener fans, particularly The Lamb and Song for Athene, immortalised by it's moving performance at the funeral of The Princess of Wales (I know of at least one person who, moved by the work and new to Tavener's music, rushed off to their local record shop and returned clutching a disc of music by Taverner the Renaissance polyphonist!!!). There are however several delights which were new to me notably the achingly beautiful As one who has slept, setting a brief text which the composer describes as dealing with the " awe, silence and expectation " which characterise the Liturgy of St Basil. Despite the clear Orthodox intonations the work also manages to encapsulate a curious sense of 'Englishness' in it's gently modulating harmony. Quite an achievement.

The other work which deserves a special mention is also the most substantial work on the disc, Svyati " O Holy One ". Written upon learning of the death of a close friend's father this personal outpouring sets a solo cello, hauntingly played by Tim Hugh, in dialogue with the choir who intone a text drawn from the Trisagion and sung in Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church. The hypnotic intensity reaches an impassioned climax before subsiding to a breathtakingly hushed conclusion. For me this work alone is worthy of the Naxos budget price tag.

In summary then, a disc which can be recommended to both seasoned Tavener fans and newcomers alike. I have admittedly heard warmer recordings of these works and the sound can tend slightly to harshness in the more impassioned passages but the boys voices of The Choir of St Johns lend an ethereal quality to the music which leaves one with a lingering impression.


Christopher Thomas



Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index