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<<<  <<  -- 4 --  Malcolm Miller    NAMES OF ALLAH


Beautiful Names is a wonderful idea, yet its execution leaves a lot wanting, even in Tavener's by now expected grandiose polystylistic, ritualistic language. Where is the cultural centre of gravity? Even in the Western tradition of spirituality which somehow links into quotations, is there a double entente whereby the quotes of the central European tradition are those which are drawn towards and drawing from the east? In the sense that it is the tenor's role which is closest to reflecting the poetry of the Arabic, the Western lyrical quotations present an equivalent spiritual gesture, a stark contrast to the almost brutal vulgarity of the 'Allah' refrain sections. How would this be received in a Mosque? The answer is not far away, as the work was scheduled to be given its second performance in Istanbul.

It is an uneven work, the warm reception of which stems from its monumental qualities as a piece of clever music-theatre, yet its often simplistic, and repetitive processes, frequently requiring highly skilled performers to pound out repeated notes and chords in a rather dull and primitive manner, undermine those aspects of the piece, like the melisma, the fleeting quotations, the use of space, that are more subtle and as the title intends, beautiful. So is the vast repetitive architecture really necessary, or is just a stylistic hangover? Is there is a shorter, yet more effective piece of expressive music in Beautiful Names, and will Tavener be the one to discover it?

Copyright © 27 June 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK



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