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From Newsday, May 5, 2000:
BY THE TIME one squeezed through the crowds packed into the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Thursday night, one was ready for the meditative peacefulness of the music of Sir John Tavener. And there was plenty of it to be had in this de facto Tavener retrospective, from the U.S. premiere of his string quartet, “The Hidden Treasure,” to “In the Month of Athyr,” based on a poem by C.P. Cavafy and narrated by Sir Paul McCartney.
But whether they were old works or new, every item on the program had been composed after 1977, the critical juncture in Tavener’s life, when he converted to Russian Orthodoxy and devoted himself to exploring traditional music in order to develop his own deeply spiritual compositional language.
The multiple facets of that language were on display in this program from the very first choral piece, “A Parting Gift for Tam Farrow,” a world premiere.
This and most of the other works were highly contemplative and serene, with a devotional quality that was palpable throughout. Drone harmonies and perfect intervals moved in parallel, only to be disrupted by a dissonance that passed through momentarily and was then resolved. Like most of the other works on the program, “A Parting Gift” was performed by the Tallis Scholars, whose crystalline tone and transparency of sound made them ideally suited for such ethereal music.
Tavener’s idiom is more spare and ascetic than the luxurious mysticism of a composer such as Arvo Pärt, to whom he is often compared. Unlike the P rt experience, however, most of the vocal works sounded similar to this listener, even though the composer had chosen different texts, ranging from excerpts of the Orthodox funeral service to the poetry of Cavafy, which McCartney read in a stately manner.
“Lament of the Mother of God” was a captivating exception, as it is built on an ascending staircase structure where the soloist (a flawless Patricia Rozario) and orchestra repeat a lengthy lyrical figure in dialogue, each time moving up in pitch and intensity.
“The Hidden Treasure” also stood out, as the only nonvocal piece on the program. It was performed by the Flux Quartet, which tried earnestly to find structure in what seemed a rambling collage of styles. Unfortunately, many of the subtleties of the performance were lost in the vaulted cathedral. At one particularly peaceful cadence, the audience in the back of the church began applauding, apparently thinking the work had reached its end. They were not even close.
Church Of St. Ignatius Loyola
This was the 1st and only concert played at Church Of St. Ignatius Loyola.