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Songs of the Sky
Ensemble Detail(s)
Britten Sinfonia
Label name
Signum Classics
Recording year

Work Title


Tarik O’Regan’s Raï, springing from the Algerian music of the same name, is similarly energetic and rich. His transmutations of the modal procedures of the repertoire (not to mention the conjuring-up of the sound of North African instrumental ensembles) is fascinating, reminding me somewhat of the work of the (scandalously underrated) Dutch composer Theo van Loevendie. There is a lyrical element, too, probably more familiar to admirers of O’Regan’s choral work. ....Tavener’s long cycle Songs of the Sky also refers, oddly, back to earlier English music – the ‘Song of the Ghost Dance’ reminds me, entirely unexpectedly, of both Britten and Vaughan Williams, and ‘Nothing lives long’ very insistently of Britten. For these texts, from American Indian, Buddhist and Hindu sources, one imagines that the composer must have felt impelled to find a very particular vocabulary, or even possibly have felt completely free and unmoored; the more curious, then, the music’s utterly English, frequently rhapsodic, quality. It’s a quality that certainly suits Charles Daniels’s voice: I’d like to hear more of him in English song (note that I hereby place Tavener firmly within this category!).
Ivan Moody, International Record Review, 6/1/2009

Tavener's emotional, affecting, almost confrontational response to the 2004 tsunami, displays the spikier turn his music has taken in recent years and is full of remarkably direct evocations of Britten.
Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine, 7/1/2009

The big piece here is John Taverner’s Song Cycle Songs of the Sky, a work of remembrance written in response to the 2004 Tsunami that ravished Indonesia. There is a lot of thought put into the settings of each of the brief eleven movements, and the work is truly touching, scored for piano, oboe, and tenor. There is a lot of rhythmic energy in Tai O’Regan’s Rai, a piece that tries, successfully I believe, to exploit the meaning of this Arabic word (“opinion”), scored for string trio, flute, clarinet, harp, and percussion. You can hear echoes of The Soldier's Tale throughout the work. One also hears the cross-cultural music that infuses the piece with its life and life-affirming vigor. This is a fine album of new music for mixed ensembles, expertly played in somewhat caustic sound, but I think the quality of the pieces outweighs most sonic considerations.
Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition, 7/15/2009

Senior, established and emerging talents are all present on a recording which effectively mirrors the celestial central theme in the abrupt contrasts of light and shade contained within and between the pieces. ‘Songs of the Sky’ takes its title from Tavener’s eponymous song-cycle which ends this collection. Scored for tenor, oboe and piano, and written in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster, Tavener’s settings shift between description and reflection, and are at their most effective when the composer eschews exaggerated moments of rather blatant tone-painting for a distanced, objective approach, as heard in ‘What is life’ and ‘Because thou lovest the burning ground.’ The early ebullience of O’Regan’s North African-inspired Raï in many ways speaks for itself.
Pwyll ap Siôn, Gramophone, 9/1/2009

Tarik O'Regan's energetic mixed octet Raï evokes a John Adams-like sound world. In John Tavener's Songs of the Sky, for tenor (the excellent Charles Daniels), oboe and piano, the composer concerns himself with real substance and personal expression.
Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times, 4/26/2009

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