“At first, I was scared stiff working with a living composer, let alone someone of the stature of Sir John Tavener,” Young recalls. “Yet he turned out an absolute lamb. John knew what he wanted, but was so charming and encouraging of everyone’s talents. I have worked with Arvo Pärt now, too, and they share those qualities. I wish I could’ve had George Frideric Handel on some sessions! It would have made things a lot easier. Or perhaps not. He was supposed to have been jovial, but tempestuous, too. Supposedly, he got so mad at one of his sopranos that he threatened to hang her out the window by her feet until she sang something his way.
“At John’s behest, though, we did have to experiment. He wanted the solo violin to be especially ethereal in Song of the Angel. We achieved that by putting Andrew Manze down the church away from the orchestra. John loved that sort of thing. This was the first time he had written for period instruments, and John was enthralled by their sound. Gut strings are less forgiving than steel strings, but that means these players are better musicians for it, making the most of the challenges with a light technique.
“We had to space the orchestral players between the effigies of the knights on the Temple Church floor. It was very atmospheric. You’re dealing with music that is about death, the afterlife and things spiritual, and there are all these ancient dead guys under the floor. No one tripped over them, I’m glad to say.”