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<<  -- 3 --  Malcolm Miller    EPISTLE OF LOVE


Even in the small-scale forms of the song cycle there is a sense of ritual in spare textures and phrase repetitions. In the first song, 'Epistle of Love', Patricia Rozario projected the echo of each short phrase in a mesmeric, chant like fashion. Tavener's means are economic: a regular rhythmic profile as in medieval chant, the accompaniment a sustained fifth as drone, changing occasionally. The vocal line shifts from diatonic scales to eastern modes, with major-minor contrasts, the effect veering between 18th century folk ballad and liturgical chant. The stillness and unravelling melos is enriched in the second song, 'Into Beauty', where drones flower into more flowing organum, touching tritones, doubling the voice, which alights from its free flight, on some telling appoggiaturas, another 'Western' accent. The cycle reached an expressive, sensuous climax in 'Yearning of the Lord', the third song which introduces imagery of 'suffering or temptation', the open fifths transformed into rich dominant sevenths, that imbue the broader melody with an ecstatic quality. Stylised, iconic simplicity in the next two songs 'Absolved in the Mirror' and 'As a Second Sun' with a backcloth of shimmering high tremlolandi, prepared the recapitulatory final song in which the initial motif of the first song reappears, thrice repeated, symbolically perhaps, in the meditative conclusion. Like Tavener's larger works, for example Eternity's Sunrise -- also composed for Patricia Rozario, there was here a visionary balance of simplicity and splendour even within the small scale of the cycle.

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Copyright © 25 March 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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