Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir
Metropolitan Cathedral (28th February 2008)
Are you religious? John Tavener is, and there is an intensity in his
music which stirs an emotion in us that can only be described as devotional.
The composer’s explanation of his work is didactic in tone. But
every word is sincere, and through the music you understand how “…when
one’s false self is extinguished, the true self shines forth and
we have…become one with God.”
Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral was completed at about the same
time as John Tavener’s career began. Who could have predicted that
forty years later the two would come together in such a perfect union
of sound and space?
You can read elsewhere about the cruciform shape, the two conductors,
the languages used, the source material. The performance was the thing:
by turns “serene, radiant; ecstatic, mystical; wild, ferocious;
with searing intensity; awesome, apocalyptic”, in Tavener’s
If the acoustic of this great space was a problem, there was no hint
of it. Vasily Petrenko’s dancing left hand is matched by a sometimes
startling expressiveness of tone from the orchestra. The same is true
of the chorus, who brought both delicacy and power to the Requiem, ably
conducted by Ian Tracey. The three soloists – Josephine Knight,
cello; Elin Manahan Thomas, soprano; Andrew Kennedy, tenor – gave
If the Culture Company do nothing else right, they must be congratulated
for commissioning this work for 2008.
Within a few moments of the start we closed our programmes and our eyes
and let the music carry us closer to being one with God. Am I religious?
I am when I listen to Tavener.