Thursday, 21 November 2013

John Taverner The Protecting Veil

I was saddened by the passing of British composer Sir John Kenneth Tavener (1944–2013). While I can't profess to being an expert on too much of his work, I can attest to the wonders of The Protecting Veil, his cello concerto, which is featured in this post.

John Taverner

The Protecting Veil was at first a suggestion from cellist Steven Isserlis, subsequently commissioned by the BBC for the 1989 Proms season. Steven Isserlis gave the premiere performance. I'm always very grateful to have a recording by the performer who gave the premier performance of a work. While there have been a few other recordings of The Protecting Veil, this one performed by Steven Isserlis has remained my favourite recording.

John Taverner The Protecting Veil

The Protecting Veil, which is essentially a 40 minute cello concerto, includes eight sections, each based on an "icon" in the life of the Virgin Mary:
1. The Protecting Veil
2. The Nativity of the Mother of God
3. The Annunciation
4. The Incarnation
5. The Lament of the Mother of God at the Cross
6. The Resurrection
7. The Dormition
8. The Protecting Veil

The string orchestra provides an atmospheric accompaniment against which the cello "sings" various chants and melodies of the Orthodox Feast of the Protecting Veil, often at the upper register of the cello. Isserlis plays with effortless ease. His playing and phrasing are impeccable, as usual. With such accomplished, passionate playing, it is hard to imagine that this recording will be surpassed.

Below is a youTube video of the beginning of The Protecting Veil played by Leonard Elschenbroich (cello) and the Docklands Sinfonia in 2012.


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