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The performances, particularly from soprano Patricia Rozario and bass Stephen Richardson, are absorbing; Richard Hickox at the helm of the City of London Sinfonia ensures that all due attention is paid to the complexity and detail of Tavener's score, which is based on a Byzantine chant and including a variety of ancient instruments, from the kaval to Tibetan temple bowls. As Tavener explains in the accompanying interviews, he sees music as "liquid metaphysics", and truly sacred music can only be achieved through the total self-effacement of the composer. Thus he sets the listener--and viewer--a daunting task. Rising to it is not merely an auditory challenge. It requires an almost physical surrender. This is music which is absorbed as much as heard.
On the DVD: Fall and Resurrection, presented in 16:9 anamorphic format, is splendidly delivered via a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio track which transports the viewer to the vaulting interior heights of St. Paul's Cathedral. Extras include two interviews with Tavener in which he talks with fascinating intensity about his own faith, the role of the composer and the complex musical and spiritual images encompassed by this work. --Piers Ford
In the words of the composer, "Fall and Resurrection" tries to "encompass, in brief glimpses, the events which have taken place since the beginning of time." Lasting just under an hour, and scored for soloists, choirs, and orchestra, "Fall and Resurrection" gives us snapshots of Biblical events, often reduced to single words of sung text. In effect, these texts become symbols ("Apple.") which we must surround with our own subtexts and associations, because the composer provides very few.
Musically, there are moments of beauty--such as Adam's flute solo which becomes, with the arrival of Eve, a duet--and banality (representing Chaos with aleatoric flutterings betrays a real lack of invention). All the trademarks of Tavener's style are here--parallel major/minor phrases, lugubrious choral writing, and a striving for transcendence.
The live recording was made in cavernous St.Paul's Cathedral, and the performances uniformly excellent. There are occasional lighting and spatial effects which amplify the drama of the music. The sound on my VHS copy was terrible. Often soft passages were completely obscured by background hiss.