Last August I wrote here about the BBC Proms broadcast of Sir John Tavener’s The Veil of the Temple, his mammoth cycle of sung prayers, chants, readings, anthems, and ritual based at least in idea on the Orthodox prayer vigil. The “mere” 2 1/2 hour concert version has now been released by BMG on two CDs. (So far only in England, but scheduled for released in the US in March. Here is a link to the UK Amazon site with more information.) The recording itself, although presenting the shorter version, was recorded live during the first complete (seven hour!) performance at The Temple Church in London in June 2003.
This disc is currently burning up my CD player! What a remarkable work, although not for those who are expecting Mozartian clarity or Beethovenian musical development. Tavener’s m.o. is repetition, variation, elaboration–all hallmarks of his Orthodox faith. The performers, soprano Patricia Rozario, the Choir of the Temple Church and the Holst Singers are unfailing in their precision, pitch, and commitment to this monumental work. They are asked to sing some of the most complex and difficult music at the end of the seven hour cycle. That they are able to do so at all, let alone with the skill that they bring is a mark of their preparation and achievement. Stephen Layton, the conductor of the proceedings, is untiring. (As is organist James Vivian’s left foot from playing hours of pedal tones on the organ….)
I cannot recommend this disk highly enough. Buy it! Then give yourself two and a half hours to sit, with libretto in hand and listen to the whole piece from beginning to end. You will find yourself transported.