The Protecting Veil is doubtless John Tavener’s (1944-2013) most famous instrumental composition. He wrote this 45-minute piece for cello and strings in 1987, commissioned by the cellist Steven Isserlis. It is extremely challenging for the soloist, who is hardly granted a moment’s respite and often has to seek out the highest registers of the instrument. The work is conceived as a series of icons contemplating the life of the Mother of God, and like many of Tavener’s other compositions, it is infused with spirituality and serenity.
The British music magazine Gramophone praised the cellist Matthew Barley for his interpretation: “Barley has absolutely understood that intimacy is what underlies this piece: it is certainly on a large scale but it is also a kind of personal dialogue between the composer and the life of the Mother of God.”
You will hear the violinist and laureate of the Queen Elisabeth Competition Sylvia Huang in two other compositions by Tavener that draw inspiration from religious sources: Fragment for the Virgin and Tears of the Angels. Just how excellent the string ensemble Young Belgian Strings is becomes apparent once again under the inspiring leadership of Dirk Van de Moortel.
J. Tavener: Tears of the Angels | Fragment for the Virgin | The Protecting Veil
Sylvia Huang, violin | Matthew Barley, cello | Young Belgian Strings | Dirk Van de Moortel, artistic director