John Tavener Requiem brings critics and audience to their feet

John Tavener Requiem brings critics and audience to their feet
© Mark McNulty
The ecstatic standing ovation given to the world premiere of the Requiem by John Tavener by a capacity audience at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral last week has marked the event as one of the most significant so far in the city’s year as Capital of Culture, and demonstrated the piece to be one of the most heartfelt of Tavener’s recent works. The Requiem will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this Wednesday 5 March at 7pm and can be heard via the Radio 3 website for the following seven days. This 35-minute work draws on the traditional Roman Catholic text, whilst also incorporating lines from the Koran, and Sufi and Hindu writings in a symmetrically arranged seven-movement structure. Soprano, tenor and cello soloists, chorus, brass, strings and percussion are placed in a vast cruciform arrangement whose antiphonal effects provide one of the most distinctive features of this piece. Timeless yet urgent, disarmingly simple in places, thunderously apocalyptic elsewhere, it is inexorably focused on the inevitable hour when - to quote Tavener's subtitle, borrowed from a Hindu sage - “our glory lies where we cease to exist”. And though pithy by Tavener's metaphysical standards (a mere 35 minutes) it is vast in concept. ...I found it overwhelmingly touching. Richard Morrison, The Times, 3 March 2008 A stupendous performance using the entire cathedral space, the work fused the common traditions of four major religions into one vision – the notion that “our glory lies where we cease to exist”. The Dies Irae had to be one of the most hellishly disturbing of any similar movement, while the mantra-like passages of serene beauty almost transcended thought. Glyn Mon Hughes, Liverpool Daily Post, 29 February 2008 ...this première performance - with soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, tenor Andrew Kennedy and cellist Josephine Knight the fabulously secure soloists, and Vasily Petrenko and Ian Tracey faultlessly co-ordinating instruments and choir - was massively acclaimed.... David Fanning, The Daily Telegraph, 3 March 2008

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