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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    COSMIC FAILURE


The work unfolds as a series of repeated sections contrasting three different sonorities, each symbolic of levels of spirituality. These gradually intensify from pianissimo to a climax, that is cut short, that gesture representing man's inability to grasp the infinite, or what Tavener terms 'the sacred' that lies beyond human knowledge. The highest level is that of Sofia, the female godhead, sung with lyrical resilience by Patricia Rosario in the upper gallery. Her focused chant like line is a regular rhythmic melody repeated each time over a sustained pedal, yet in one repetition it is harmonized with thick primary triads. The melody itself is tonal, a falling triad and semitone, rise back up to the first pitch and descent of a fourth. The lowest level is that of the human pleading, in which Tavener calls for a singer 'who believes' rather than a professional. Here it was Father Melitus, a Greek Orthodox Priest known for his musical abilities. The inclusion of a real Priest presents a profound challenge to the notion of art-work or liturgical rite (Tavener described it as a 'rite' in an earlier interview, following the première of his song cycle 'Epistle of Love', a sketch for this larger work). Yet it is clearly more than merely a rite. Father Melitus is accompanied by a string sustained chord, pulsating with short rapid bowings to give a sense of unrest and the harmony triad based yet filled with complex density. Each main section begins with a Tam-Tam clash -- including the very start of the work, with the string chord emerging out of its fading resonance. The two solo sections, introduced either by Sofia or Father Melitus, are followed by the third sonority, a chordal choral dialogue between two massed choirs (here the rich toned Bach Choir with the Waynflete Singers), each representing heaven and earth, angels and humans, yet musically equivalent. Each sings with simple bright cadential chords passed from one to the other and occasionally blending, producing richer extended harmonies. The resulting progression is highly unoriginal, recalling snippets of Elgar or 'Star Wars'.

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Copyright © 12 August 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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