Tavener's avant-garde style of the seventies contrasts with the contemplative beauty of his later works, for which he is best known, yet he spirituality and mysticism is still present. Akhmatova Requiem (1980) sets a sequence of poems written during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s by Anna Akhmatova, describing the terror of having her family and friends arrested and imprisoned, and the lines of relatives waiting hopelessly outside Leningrad jail. To her poems, Tavener added prayers from the Russian Orthodox funeral service which are sung on this recording by bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk.
Six Russian Folk Songs (1978) represent, in the composer's words, 'a musical sigh of relief' and a complete contrast to the pain and sorrow of the Requiem; they were written for the Nash Ensemble's 15th anniversary in 1979. Simple settings of folk lyrics, their melodic nature recalls Tchaikovsky's songs.
This recording was previously issued by Carlton Classics in its BBC Radio Classics series.
Phyllis Bryn-Julson soprano
John Shirley-Quirk bass-baritone
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Gennady Rozhdestvensky conductor
Elise Ross soprano
The Nash Ensemble