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This fine addition to the Tavener discography brings together many works from the composer’s final years, some of which were commissioned by the Wells Cathedral Choir and here receive their premiere recordings. Following a serious heart attack that placed him in a coma, Tavener emerged from the experience with his religious faith dented and a three-year convalescence ahead during which he was often depressed and physically immobile. When he did return to composition, he tended to focus on short sacred pieces in the western rather than the Orthodox tradition. The main work on Matthew Owens’s well-filled CD is the Missa Wellensis, a double choir Latin setting from 2013. The Wells choir possesses a rich and developed tone, which Owens uses to the full in this wonderfully absorbing setting. Owens and his forces are equally fine in the remainder of the programme, which includes a premiere recording of Preces and Responses, also written for them. They also give us an enjoyable, nicely detached account of that Tavener classic Song for Athene, here given with the composer’s authorised word change of ‘servant’ instead of the original ‘handmaid’, thus allowing it to be used for the funeral of a man or boy too.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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