Classical home listening: John Tavener: No Longer Mourn for Me; Josquin Masses and more

Steven Isserlis and friends record a heartfelt tribute to the late, great British composer, while the Tallis Scholars conclude their epic Josquin mass cycle

John Tavener/Steven Isserlis No Longer Mourn for Me

• At once tough and inspiring, the cellist Steven Isserliss tribute to John Tavener, No Longer Mourn for Me (Hyperion), combines various musical forces, giving a chance to hear Tavener in his many creative guises. Isserlis is joined by seven fellow cellists in his own arrangements of Tavener’s serene Preces and Responses (2013) and his Shakespeare sonnet setting No Longer Mourn for Me (2010). Other works feature the soloists Matthew Rose (bass) and Abi Sampa (Sufi singer), Trinity Boys Choir and the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Omer Meir Wellber. The music charts the close friendship between composer and cellist and their families. It also pays homage to Isserlis’s late wife, Pauline, to whom Tavener dedicated the powerful monodrama for bass The Death of Ivan Ilyich (2012). A highlight is the mantra Mahámátar (2000), in which chant is overlaid with an improvised hymn of praise: Tavener at his most eclectic and ethereal.

Josquin Hercules Dux Ferrarie

The Tallis Scholars and their director, Peter Phillips, have reached the end of an enterprise begun in 1986: to record all 18 masses by the French Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez (c1450/1455-1521), just ahead of his 500th anniversary year. This ninth and final release (Gimmell), recorded in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford, brings together three dating from early middle age reckoned to be his greatest works: Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie, written for Duke Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara and making musical play of his name; Missa D’ung aultre amer, short and dense in comparison, and Missa Faysant regretz. Phillips, whose impassioned liner notes guide the listener into Josquin’s rarefied but sublime sound world, compares this last to a string quartet of Bartók in its close argument and dazzling economy. As always with the Tallis Scholars, it’s immaculately sung. All told, a mighty achievement.

The Tallis Scholars with director Peter Phillips, centre.
The Tallis Scholars with director Peter Phillips, centre. Photograph: Nick Rutter

• The live broadcast schedule has been thrown into disarray again with lockdown, but catch up on yesterday’s Opera on 3 (BBC Sounds), a glorious performance from 2017 of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier starring Renée Fleming, with Alice Coote, Sophie Bevan, Matthew Rose and the Royal Opera House chorus and orchestra, conducted by Andris Nelsons.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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