Ambitious "Fall and Resurrection" Falls Short
msteighner | Oregon, USA | 04/16/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"John Tavener (b. 1944) is one of the most performed and recorded contemporary composers. "The Lamb" and "Song for Athene" have become choral standards. His current style (developing since his conversion to the Orthodox Church) is austere yet accessible, and aspires to a spirituality which is very much in tune with that of popular culture. There is a fine line between simple and simplistic, however, and too often in "Fall and Resurrection" Tavener fails to negotiate the difference.In the words of the composer, "Fall and Resurrection" tries to "encompass, in brief glimpses, the events which have taken place since the beginning of time." Lasting just under an hour, and scored for soloists, choirs, and orchestra, "Fall and Resurrection" gives us snapshots of Biblical events, often reduced to single words of sung text. In effect, these texts become symbols ("Apple.") which we must surround with our own subtexts and associations, because the composer provides very few.Musically, there are moments of beauty--such as Adam's flute solo which becomes, with the arrival of Eve, a duet--and banality (representing Chaos with aleatoric flutterings betrays a real lack of invention). All the trademarks of Tavener's style are here--parallel major/minor phrases, lugubrious choral writing, and a striving for transcendence.The live recording was made in cavernous St.Paul's Cathedral, and the performances uniformly excellent. There are occasional lighting and spatial effects which amplify the drama of the music. The sound on my VHS copy was terrible. Often soft passages were completely obscured by background hiss."
The Fall of Substance and the Resurrection of Tedium
kamus | United States | 03/17/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first complete work of Tavener's I have heard other than a few brief excerpts from some choral works. I approached this work with heady anticipation after learning that Tavener is currently the world's most performed contemporary classical composer. Let me get straight to the point: the piece is boring, tedious, insipid, pretentious and often ridiculous (I involuntarily burst out laughing at the "Apple" section with its absurd and tortured staccato glottal utterances). Tavener's success is deeply perplexing to me (not to mention, disturbing) as he seems to lack both imagination and craft, ingredients I previously thought were necessary for success as a composer. As far as imagination goes, what little thematic material that makes up this sprawling 75 minute extravaganza is frightfully banal. Even a composer that I detest, Andrew Lloyd Webber, has way more melodic fluency than this guy. The presenter on the DVD solemnly informs us of how much the self imposed mathematical complexities of the "Chaos" section so taxed poor Mr. Tavener that it took him a month to write each page (!) The result? Five minutes of seemingly random quasi-aleatoric noodling by the entire orchestra that tries one's patience almost as much one's credulity that it took him so long to write it. What little imagination that is in evidence seems to be primarily in the non-musical arena: theatricality i.e. lighting, the ersatz medieval aesthetic and the choice of the inspirational setting of St.Paul's Cathedral in London. A few musical moments did catch my ear in the "Logos" section but these few morsels of interest failed to buoy the bloated and flaccid corpse that is the remainder of this work. As for craft, there is precious little of that too. As one other reviewer mentioned, Tavener tends to substitute repetition for development and, I would add, atmosphere for melodic and harmonic invention. In one interview segment he loftily decries development as a "secular" activity while in another interview segment he takes pains to impress the interviewer with a few childish variations he manages to wring from his malnourished Ney Flute "theme". His amatuerish handling of the orchestra and criminal abuse of the singers makes one wonder if he has had any training in orchestration whatsoever. As infuriating as I found his music, the disparaging comments he makes about Bach and Beethoven really frosted me. He implies that whereas he channels the "Creative Imagination of Christ" that those great Masters were "secular" dilettantes bound by their earthly limitations. For a supposedly religious man he seems to suffer greatly from the sins of arrogance and pride in his unilateral denunciation of their divine inspiration as being inauthentic. It hard not to conclude that he dismisses their genius in order to cover his own apparent lack of it. In short, I hated this music (and the arrogance of the man), and I am disturbed to live in a world where this poverty stricken excuse for profundity has found such a wide audience at the expense of many deserving yet lesser performed composers. The DVD wasn't a total loss however: St.Paul's looks very impressive and well worth a visit on a future trip to London."