Last week I drove down to deepest Dorset to visit John Tavener, and play The Protecting Veil to him ahead of my performance in Latvia this week. I was supposed to see him three years ago to play to him, but he was very ill at the time: so ill that it was touch and go whether he would survive, so it was doubly special to see him looking bright and focused, and enjoying listening to his work. There were several questions about speeds that I wanted to ask him, and a few details of articulations and notes etc. It felt like a great honour to play to him. In my opinion The Protecting is one of the very greatest cello concertos ever written – it is strikingly original, a tonal work with fabulous streaks of dissonance that explores the possibilities of the cello as a singing instrument like no other piece. And it is one of the physically hardest, at 45 minutes with no break at all! I also think it is perhaps the most emotionally profound of all cello concertos, as it deals with such extraordinary concepts and stories – the annunciation, the incarnation of Christ, the Lament of the Mother of God at the Cross, and other passages. In short, it is a joy to play, and just spending a few hours with him, and chatting about music over lunch was a huge inspiration. May his health continue to improve.
Music always wins.