Reviewed by John Irvine
The last time John Tavener and Steven Isserlis collaborated on a major project was the 1992 premiere recording of "The Protecting Veil", which was one of the first classical recordings to be nominated for the coveted Mercury Music Prize. It didn't win. Five years later and another stunning album results from this harmony of composer and musician: again nominated for the Mercury Music prize, and again not winning, which only goes to show that popularity is not necessarily a measure of quality! Prejudices aside, this is a real treat for Tavener fans with three premiere recordings for cello pieces. The title track, "Svyata, O Holy One", is a sombre dialogue of radiant intensity between the cellist and a choir chanting in the Russian Orthodox style the Trisagion: "O Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal/Have mercy on us." Written to mark the passing of a friend's lather, to describe this work as powerfully moving would be a great injustice and a huge understatement. Similarly the settings of poems by the Russian poetess Anna Akhmalatova. scored for cello and soprano alone, are indescribably beautiful. Here Isserlis' accompaniment of soprano Patricia Rozario, is exquisite, and Rozario's performance quite outstanding. "Chant" is a brief solo piece for cello, providing a memorable coda to the album as a whole. The other two pieces on the album have been recorded before and are available elsewhere. "The Hidden Treasure" sees Isserlis joined by violins and viola to, form a quartet. This performance compares will with the only other recording, that of the Chilingirian Quartet (reviewed in CR22). "Eternal Memory" is actually the same recording as that reviewed in CR20, so marks are deducted for recycling old material, which potential buyers are already likely to have in their collections already! A fine collection, and a real return to form for composer John Tavener.