ARTYFACTS: Day 22 - Tavener - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Day 22 - Tavener - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I tried hard. As a spectacle, the symbolic cross formation of the choristers, musicians and conductor worked well. The peripheral choirs also worked to good effect but the Tibetan horn and percussion instruments smacked of ecumenical tokenism.

The problem, for me, is Tavener's obsession with orthodox Christianity. This seems to be regarded as deep and meaningful, but is it anything more than an affectation. Tavener gets away with a lot of nonsense on the pretence that he's a composer. This means he can serve up some truly Byzantine (literally) lyrics/prayers, with a downright fundamentalist message - and get away with it. A cleavage rich soprano wouldn't get far in that world. In fact, women full stop don't get a look in.

One could argue that one must separate this content from the form, and enjoy the music as a thing in itself. That's fine, but well over two hours of repetitive choral work was something to be endured, not enjoyed. The tenor and bass pieces from the gospel were more laboured than a third-rate rap song. There were unearthly moments, especially the female choir's use of 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me' made remote by placing the choir behind the audience.

The orthodox church emphasises worship, but the piece is so liturgical that, if you have any sort of humanist beliefs, it is almost impossible to find any sense of joy. I refuse to worship someone who wants to take us back rather than forward. I took my son - who thought it was the most boring experience of his, admittedly young, life.

1 star


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