Review By Stephen Estep,American Record Guide,November 2009
An organ pedal point, a spooky unison modal line—we’re off to a good start with ‘Verbum Caro Factum Est’, which opens John Tavener’s Ex Maria Virgine. Then the line blossoms into four gorgeous chords at the end on the words “Ex Maria”. ‘Nowell Nowell! Out of Your sleep’ alternates between loud choir praisings with organ flourishes and unaccompanied choir chords with individual syllables pulsed like a Michael Torke or Steve Reich piece. ‘Remember O Thou Man’ is a circling admonishing movement; a few jubilant outbursts always lead back to the “Remember” part. The writing is varied and interesting, with the organ adding some variety, especially the brilliant trilling in ‘Sweet Was the
The rest of the program consists of six settings of miscellaneous Advent texts…’A Nativity’, for women’s voices, is the most creative of them; Tavener holds notes of the melody over with some of the voices to create beautiful, unsettling chords that hang in the air for longer than reverberation would allow, and with more clarity as well. ‘O Thou Gentle Light’ is a setting of a Greek text written sometime before the 4th Century. The Choir sings in English, with lush but deliberate chords; and a solo baritone, Stefan Berkieta, sings the Greek words at the phrase ends; it’s quite effective. ‘Angels’, the final track, is filled with spaces to contemplate between the phrases…The recorded sound is excellent—the acoustics never smother the singers or muddle the organ.
Review By Erik Daumann,www.klassik.com,June 2009
Review By J.F. Weber,Fanfare,May 2009
Two of the selections are first recordings: Ex Maria virgine, the major work at 38 minutes, and Marienhymne. The other works are not widely available…The composer has a devoted following, so these accomplished performances will delight them.
Review By Bob Briggs,MusicWeb International,April 2009
Tavener has written unaccompanied choral music throughout his career and here are some fine examples of this work�two with an important part for organ. Ex Maria Virgine is a kind of Ceremony of Carols in that it sets both well known and less well known texts concerned with Christmas. It�s a big piece and although there are some stunning moments, it�s at least ten minutes too long for its material. But I welcome it for it is so different to those Orthodox pieces. It seems to have more of a sense of itself as a work of music, than as a work of the Orthodox Church. It�s interesting that within its structure I noticed the undeniable influence of both Elgar and Vaughan Williams in the choral textures. Ex Maria Virgine was commissioned by the performers on this disk and this recording was more....
Review By Andrew Stewart,Classic FM,January 2009
Tavener’s lifelong spiritual development has prompted significant shifts in his music, leaving consistent traces while opening up new creative avenues. The lyricism and tender humanity of his recent works, inspired by the composer’s take on Universalism and its belief in one common god, are ever present in an exceptional new Naxos release. Ex Maria Virgine, a sequence of texts associated with the Virgin Mary, sharply contradicts the lazy line that all Tavener sounds the same: it doesn’t! Compare, for example, his ecstatic setting of ‘Ding! Dong! Merrily on high’ with his ‘Rocking Carol’. An unmissable budget release.
Review By Peter Dickinson,Gramophone,January 2009
East Anglia meets Eastern music in the master-minimalist's latest release
Review By ,Infodad.com,January 2009
Most of the music on the new Tavener CD is for unaccompanied chorus, with two works—Ex Maria Virgine and Marienhymne—being world première recordings. Tavener’s harmonic language is, not surprisingly, very distant indeed from [his Renaissance namesake John]Taverner’s: A Nativity, for example, uses tone clusters to create an atmospheric setting of words by William Butler Yeats. In many ways, it is Tavener’s choice of texts that makes this CD intriguing: O Do Not Move uses words by contemporary Greek poet George Seferis, Birthday Sleep sets lines by modern Welsh poet Vernon Watkins, the words for Marienhymne are by Swiss philosopher-poet Frithjof Schuon, and so on. Much of the music is lovely, often
Review By Brian Wilson,MusicWeb International,December 2008
It’s a paradox that Tavener’s Christmas music seems to take longer to seep into the psyche than, say, The Protecting Veil, with its much more immediate appeal. I see the potential of the music, as I did when King’s first commissioned The Lamb for the Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols—I just hope that it doesn’t take me as long this time to bring the music on board. When I’ve done so, I’m sure it will be as established a part of the Christmas scene as Britten’s Ceremony of Carols has become.
Review By C Michael Bailey,All About Jazz,December 2008
British composer John Tavener is the big daddy of modern choral composition, save for, perhaps, Arvo Part. Tavener is a deep musical mystic well versed in the Ikons and Kontakions of the Eastern Orthodox Church. A little history for perspective: in the 11th century, two large factions of the Christian church had a difference of opinion resulting in a non-heretical break in the Christian church into the Roman Catholic church, with its headquarters in Rome and the Eastern Orthodox church, with its headquarters shared among the Patriarchies of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. It is in the musical tradition of this latter church that John Tavener excels.
Review By David Denton, Naxos,November 2008
Born in England in 1944, John Tavener now holds a place among the great and most profound choral composers of our time.