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MALCOLM MILLER on the world première of
Tavener's 'Song of the Cosmos'


The programmatic symbolism of John Tavener's works, rooted in the Orthodox Christian tradition, and recently overlaid with influences from Hindu and related Eastern traditions, is often enacted in ritual gestures and structures in both small and larger scale works. Bloc repetitions, sometimes using traditional material (or tonal chords similar to minimalists like Glass) develop through minimal transformations to create spaces for contemplation in non-developmental Eastern temporal circularity, yet at the same time combined with developmental teleology in the processive transformations and goal oriented forms. In his latest work Song of the Cosmos, which received its world première at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2001, Tavener stepped beyond the confrontation of circularity and teleology by creating vertical cross-sections of time, sliced moments stretched and spliced in a mosaic like pattern of simplicity and potential power. Commissioned for the 125th Anniversary of the Bach Choir, its concept promised much, but the finished work delivered little. Even in its excellent, polished performance, with Patricia Rosario and Deacon Meliton as soprano and bass soloists, the BBC Philharmonic and Bach Choir conducted by David Hill, its effect was underwhelming. The simplicity was too simple, the power too weak. In contrast to many of Tavener's shorter works that are peculiarly effective and beautiful, this was a Cosmic statement that remained earthbound.

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Copyright © 12 August 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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