TAVENER: Total Eclipse. Agraphon.
Patricia Rosario, soprano; John Harle, saxophone; Christophger Robson, countertenor; James Gilchrist, tenor; Choir of New College, Oxford; Max Jones, treble; Academy of Ancient Music/Paul Goodwin, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807271 5 channel TT: 62:05

BACH: Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1043. Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041. Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042. Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1060.
Andrew Manze and Rachel Podger, violinists; Academy of Ancient Music/Andrew Manze, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807155 5 channel TT: 56:41

Two fine multi-channel releases from Harmonia Mundi! Tavener's music is filled with symbolic meaning, and his many admirers will welcome these first recordings. Total Eclipse was premiered June 20, 2000 in the City of London's St. Paul's Cathedral with the same performers heard on this recording which was made the following week in Temple Church, London. The composer states Total Eclipse is a "metdnoia," which means "change of mind," "turning around," or "conversion," with St. Paul symbolically represented by a soprano saxophone and a countertenor. Taverner also says the music should be performed in "a petrified ecstasy; the manner of playing and the spatial distribution is of the utmost importance." Presumably the composer got what he wanted in this recording. He continued to revise the work during the recording sessions adjusting to the church's acoustics. Agraphon, literally "unwritten thing," designates a saying or tradition about Christ not recorded in the Gospels or traceable to its original source. It was commissioned by Athens Concert Hall and first performed there in October 1955 with Tavener's favorite soprano, Patricia Rozario, as soloist, as she is on this recording. The multi-channel sound, produced by Robina G. Young, is superb, wonderfully capturing the resonant acoustics of Temple Church. The outbursts of the two sets of timpani, often representing the sound of rocks and earthquakes, are stunningly captured, as is the shreiking sound of the saxopohone. In this resonant acoustic, the Academy of Ancient Music does not sound like it's performing on period instruments. The only negative feature of this recording is that there are only two tracks. There are different sections to both pieces; they should have been tracked.

The Bach SACD is superb in every way. You won't hear this composer's music played more vitally than it is here. Andrew Manze, conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music, joins Rachgel Podger in these marvelous performances. Robina G. Young has another engineering triumph here. The only negative feature of this recording is its short playing time: 56:41 isn't much. Easily more Bach could have been included.

R.E.B. (June 2004)