"Yesterday I listened... today I loved!"
Posted on: 13th May 2012
It’s been an epic few days across the Festival recently, ranging from intimate recitals to transcendental meditative states in Canterbury Cathedral.
Day seven on Thursday saw a lunchtime recital In Praise of Dreams with soprano Rhona McKail and pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam in their lunchtime recital, before the focus shifted out to the Turner Contemporary gallery at Margate for the world premiere of Les Malèdictions d’une Furie, a monodrama by John Croft performed by Loré Lixenberg. Prior to the performance, both Croft and Lixenberg appeared in conversation with Festival Director, Paul Edlin.
Friday’s lunchtime concert was a sonic exploration in the youthful company of the New Perspectives ensemble, in the chamber-ensemble-meets-electronics world of Jonathan Harvey’s Bhakti; young performers from the Royal College of Music, conducted by Timothy Lines, bathed the audience in the rich colours of Harvey’s unique and visionary soundworld. St Gregory’s was full to bursting for the concert, to the extent that festival assistants were having to put out extra chairs as audience members continued to arrive right up until the concert began.
The visionary nature of the day continued into the evening, as Canterbury Cathedral echoed to the sounds of John Tavener’s The Veil of the Temple, an large-scale meditative work for which the composer himself, in frail health, made the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Nigel Short led Tenebrae and members of the English Chamber Orchestra in Tavener’s epic, all-embracing pan-religious odyssey, which after its two-and-three-quarter-hour performance was greeted with rapturous applause. (The composer himself can be seen seated in the front row on the left in the photo below).
Yesterday’s events continued the journey into the stars, with Darrah Morgan Exploding Stars in works for violin and electronics, including the premiere of Jonty Harrisons’ Some of its Parts. Earlier in the morning, composer Frank Lyons ranged freely over an eclectic range of musical styles in a composition workshop. Top-brass came to the Festival in the evening, as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band (wryly observing on Twittter earlier in the day that they were en route to a ‘local gig’) came to the Cathedral with a programme including John McCabe’s Cloudcatcher Fells and an arrangements for brass of Holst’s The Planets, which, in its original incarnation as Paul Edlin observed, remains one of the previous century’s most influential works.
Against the backdrop of all this, the New Music in Britain conference unfolded in a series of papers and talks exploring aspects of the British contemporary musical landscape and papers focusing on key composers including Birtwistle and Maxwell Davies.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are still three days yet to come, with today’s celebration of Worldwide Mother’s Day in a feast of family events at the Gulbenkian, and a visit from legendary British jazz pianist Julian Joseph tonight.
Images: Peter Cook
Posted by Daniel Harding.
Posted on: 4th Apr 2012
With exactly one month until Sounds New bursts into life in Canterbury, we’ll be marking the countdown to the beginning of the festival with a series profiling performers, composers and pieces appearing throughout the season, beginning with Sir John Tavener.
John Tavener regards The Veil of the Temple ‘as the supreme achievement of my life and the most important work that I have ever composed.’ Huge in concept, and in its original form lasting for seven hours, the piece is in eight sections, or ‘circles,’ like a gigantic prayer wheel with each cycle ascending in pitch, such that the entire work represents a tonal ascent beginning and ending in C.
Since his arrival on the musical scene in the late 60’s, with his oratorio The Whale launching the birth of the London Sinfonietta, Tavener has managed to achieve the difficult task of writing modern music that has a popular appeal, as choral pieces such as Song for Athene and The Lamb attest, as well as The Protecting Veil for cello and orchestra.
Tavener’s music exists in a kind of transcendent tonal landscape, which, like the music of his deeply religious compatriot, Jonathan Harvey, seems to be hovering on the verge of revelation, of opening the door to a nether-realm towards which the music constantly yearns.
Tavener’s deeply religious convictions saw him wanting to write a pan-theological work that moves beyond one single belief to include eastern ideas; as Tavener remarks, ‘the music was deeply influenced by orthodox vigil services, but I wanted to go beyond Christianity and embrace Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism and the religion of the American Indians.’
Tavener’s vision for the entire piece is profoundly all-embracing:
''By the act of writing The Veil I understood that no single religion could be exclusive. The Veil has become light – there is no longer any veil. This tearing away of the Veil shows that all religions are in the transcendent way inwardly united beneath their outward form.''
Scored for soloists, large orchestra and a variety of exotic instruments including temple bowls and tam-tam, the version coming to Canterbury is the version the composer made to make it more readily able to be performed.
It’s become somewhat fashionable to deride Tavener’s music (perhaps, in part, a side-effect of his music’s popular appeal) as a sort of ‘Holy Minimalism,’ a glibly dismissive term which conveniently overlooks the profound convictions that have shaped Tavener’s writing and given them an unshakeable integrity. Tavener’s musical language may have a simplicity, almost a naivety, compared to the more complicated tonality of other modern composers, or indeed since his own more avant-garde works from the 1970s, but that should in no way detract from the wonderful translucency of his harmonic language. His music is capable both of an almost diaphanous delicacy as well as impassioned outpouring, each an aspect of his musical vision.
The performance of this epic work in the reverential surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral on Friday 11 May will surely be a memorable occasion; the composer himself will be present.
To whet your appetite for Tenebrae’s performance at the Cathedral, here’s the choir performing Tavener’s intimate and timeless motet, The Lamb.
*citations from the composer’s own website here.
Posted by Daniel Harding.