With Sir John Tavener so seriously ill, it seems only decent to suspend the scepticism so easily provoked by his idiosyncratic spiritual pronouncements, but to ignore them entirely would be to discount his own account of The Beautiful Names.
The 75-minute meditation on the 99 names of Allah came to Tavener 'spontaneously' but is nevertheless highly structured into nine sections based on the Hindu concept of the sevenfold constitution of Man; it aspires to unite 'tangible' and 'spiritual' vision.
The work is necessarily fragmentary but Tavener's use of characteristically extravagant musical forces held interest, though without ever fully engaging the emotions.
Cries of 'Allah' open the sections, starting (on Saturday) with valiant tenor soloist Andrew Kennedy, before surging up through the BBC Symphony Chorus to the strings and magnificent brass of the Orchestra. Structure was reinforced by instrumental canons and the dull thud of the American Indian pow-wow drum.
Interjections by exotic percussion added surprisingly little colour, but choral exhalations and excellent singing from members of Trinity College of Music Chamber Choir, both accompanied by a fine, off-stage string quartet, provided some of the more beautiful name-settings.
The work ended with a sigh and was enthusiastically, if not ecstatically, received.
Conductor David Hill worked energetically and eloquently both here, and earlier, in the exposing, sustained a capella lines of Tavener's Song for Athene, Barber's Agnus Dei and excerpts from Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil.
Phrasing and dynamic control were masterful and failure to evoke a convincing Russian sonority in the latter could be forgiven - it was a cruelly demanding evening for the Chorus.