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ALBUM REVIEW John Tavener: Palintropos

Outstanding interpretation of revelatory tone poem

A FLOCK Ascending is a relatively new independent classical  label created by composer, pianist and writer Michael Stewart and its aim is to reflect new emerging talent and the best in contemporary classical music.

John Tavener, who Stewart studied composition with in the 1970s,  remains very much at the forefront of that thinking.

His Palintropos for piano and orchestra, composed in 1978, was  commercially unrecorded for over 41 years. Tavener conceived the work on the Greek island of Patmos and it came to him in one day at the spot where where St John is believed to have received the divine revelation.

Tavener  considered it to be the closest thing he had composed to a tone-poem and his only impressionistic serial piece.

It opens with low double-bass notes, then more strings are held at length before giving way way to pulsating percussion, harp and brass.

Building in intensity and bursting with hallmark Tavener rhythms, then slowing to a dream-like, off-centre impression of fantasy, Palintropos ends with a return to hauntingly slow high strings, which seem to drift into other worlds.

The piano, meticulously played with a sharp intensity by Japanese pianist Aruhi, is accompanied by  the  New London Orchestra, with a line-up of strings, trumpets, trombones, horns, harp, celesta and percussion.

Conducted by Ronald Corp, the sound is warm and detailed and the end result is a treat for Tavener fans.

The second composition on the album is Stewart’s own Beyond Time and Space (In Memoriam John Tavener).

An ambitious ambient work for piano, electronics and keyboards. Aruhi again plays piano, alongside a choice selection of orchestral samples, sequencing and experimental mix techniques.

Always melodic, it’s an emotionally charged and meditative work which reflects Stewart’s interest in cosmology, time, memory, spirituality, Zen philosophy, sacred geometry and quantum theory.

It typifies the ambition and courage of A Flock Ascending, a label which is clearly a force to be reckoned with.  

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