TAVENER: Missa Wellensis; The Lord’s Prayer; Love bade me welcome & others – Wells Cathedral Choir/ Matthew Owens – Signum Classics

A must-have for Tavener fans.

TAVENER: Missa Wellensis; The Lord’s Prayer; Love bade me welcome; Preces and Responses (Part One); I will lift up mine eyes (Psalm 121); Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale); Preces and Responses (Part Two); Song for Athene; Prayer for the healing of the sick; They are all gone into the world of light – Wells Cathedral Choir/ Matthew Owens – Signum Classics SIGCD442, 73:43 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

After John Tavener suffered a heart attack in 2007 that brought him near death; his next three years were a torturous trek of pain, depression, and loss of spiritual acumen. But in 2010, despite still being taunted by pain, he experienced a revitalization of sorts, producing over the next three years until his demise, works that were tauter, concentrated, and heavily invested in spiritual austerity.

Conductor Matthew Owens suggested to the composer a Latin setting of the mass, and he obliged with great enthusiasm. This double-choir setting, in tribute to Tomas Luis de Victoria, is a staunch reaffirmation of Tavener’a basic religiosity, which had morphed into a confused universalism in his final years. It is a spectacular work of great propensity anchored in blocks of choral sound, and is quite moving. The Preces and Responses (here divided up into three parts to give this entire program a type of Eucharistic liturgical construct) was given in 2014 and serves as a stately and concentrated punctuation to this recital.

The other works have been heard before, but never to better effect than here. This is a cleverly thought-out assemblage of great impact, beautifully rendered by the sterling Wells crowd. This is one of the best Tavener discs available!

—Steven Ritter

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