The biggest musical splash at Liverpool's European City of Culture celebrations was undoubtedly the new Requiem by that master of long, drawn-out mystical minimalism, John Tavener. It interweaves the Latin mass with Islamic and Hindu texts in an ingeniously symmetrical design. There are wonderful moments, like the interlude for solo cello (played by Josephine Knight) and the RLPO's brass section...
Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph, 6/10/2009
John Tavener's Requiem was first performed in Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral in February last year, and it is that performance that is issued here. Like many of Tavener's recent works, the Requiem is multi-faith, intended to emphasis the common ground between the world's religions. The backbone of the seven-movement work is the Roman Catholic requiem mass, on to which Tavener grafts extracts from the Qu'ran, Sufi and Hindu texts; at the mid-point is a movement that combines the Dies Irae with what Tavener calls Kali's Dance, led by a solo cello that has a concertante role throughout and that, according to the composer, represents "the primordial light which appears at death and journeys with us towards the state of oneness, or paradise." The sequence ends in a blaze of choral and orchestral sound, representing the moment when "the true self shines forth and we have...become one with God."
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 5/22/2009
I was taken aback by the melodic diversity and daring astringency of Tavener's commission for Liverpool's culture year. Conductor Vasily Petrenko sets a cavernous Mussorgsky-like atmosphere and the RLP soloists are sensational.
Norman Lebrecht, Evening Standard, 6/1/2009
Recorded by the same team that premiered the piece at Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral last year – the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko – the seven-movement Requiem may be the ultimate realisation of John Tavener's multi-faith attitudes, blending textual fragments from Islamic, Hindu and Christian sources, and incorporating Tibetan temple bells and Native American drums alongside the orchestra.
The work pivots around a lone cello around which swirl the waves of choral harmony, the rolling percussion, the glinting brass and the clear, pure tone of soprano Elin Manahan Thomas. It's accompanied here by "Eternal Memory" and "Mahashakti", similarly possessed of comforting awe.
Andy Gill, The Independent , 5/1/2009
Tavener is a devout Christian but readings of the Koran and Sufi and Hindu texts all share musical space here, resting as well as wrestling with each other. The 30-minute choral composition was commissioned by Liverppol's Capital of Culture programme and the string section is particularly beautiful, rising and falling in waves.
, The Daily Express, 5/1/2009
Tavener has combined words from the Requiem Mass, Qu'ran, Sufi texts and the Upanishads in this intense work for cello, soprano and tenor soloists, mixed chorus and orchestra. Written for Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral, and using the building's spatial possibilities, it has characteristic moments of heavenly ecstasy. Yet the work also shows new fervour and robustness which will surprise those who assume Tavener is stuck in a holy-minimalist rut. The Dies Irae roars ferociously, while the final "Ananda" floats away into the ether. The short, contemplative "Eternal Memory" and "Mahashakti" make fitting companion pieces. Beautiully performed by all.
Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 5/31/2009
The work’s opening has a very Gallic kind of lushness about it that suggests composers such as Fauré, Messiaen or even Florentz, and also refers to very audibly back to such earlier works of Tavener’s as the Celtic Requiem and In alium, both of which similarly feature a high soprano. There is, in addition, more than a hint of Holst. [...] Its profound movement-in-status, dramatic contrasts and visionary declamations from the soloists all proclaim it a deeply felt, large-scale statement, whatever one makes of the remarkable assemblage of texts from diverse religious traditions. The ‘Dies irae’, fantastically interspersed with a ‘Dance for Kali’, for all its tremendous brute strength, yet recalls the powerful alternations of mood in the setting of the same text in the intimate Requiem for Father Malachy of nearly 40 years earlier: more proof, if any were needed, of Tavener’s amazing sense of purpose throughout his compositional career, abrupt though his stylistic moves may at times have appeared to be.
In spite of that consistency, I was utterly unprepared for the sublime beauty of Mahashakti for solo violin, tam-tam and strings. Written originally for Leonidas Kavakos in 2003, it is, as the composer notes, ‘both rapturous and hieratical’; its unceasing oriental flow – that nevertheless manages to suggest a link with the Vaughan Williams of The Lark Ascending – is utterly remarkable. Eternal Memory is the makeweight here, I initially thought that I would have been happy to stop with the final resounding notes of Mahashakti – there was, it seemed, simply nowhere that one can go after that – but so different in tone is the work, and so gripping is the performance, that I was obliged to change my mind.
Very highly recommended.
Ivan Moody, International Record Review, 7/1/2009
Tavener's powerful new Requiem is steeped in his familiar eastern-influenced soundworld. Incorporationg Catholic, Sufi, Hindu and Islamic texts, there is urgent intensity, mystical serenity, and a dies irae so cataclysmic it feels as if The End is nigh.
, Classic FM, 7/1/2009
The last movement is extraordinary: an undulating choral figure is set amidst swells of sound from the orchestra and soloists as the piece builds to a dense climax bringing together Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek and Arabic texts, with Elin Manahan Thomas's pellucid soprano above. Finally, everything falls away leaving a quiet organ drone over which the cello represents what Tavener considers the Requiem's truest meaning: the concept that 'Our glory lies where we [the false Self] cease to exist.'
Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine, 6/1/2009