Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Song of the Angel by John Tavener (b.1944)
I found a recording called Eternity's Sunrise and lucky for me, the recording was one I was able to listen to. I immediately went to the second track of the album. Why? Because it was called Song of the Angel and I will admit this up front: I was into a huge Phantom of the Opera obsession at the time (one of the many times my Phantom obsession has taken ahold of me). The "Angel of Music" reference is fairly strong in Phantom. Christine believes Erik (the Phantom) is her Angel of Music and (in the musical at least) the Phantom also refers to her as his Angel of Music.
I was absolutely transfixed by this particular piece from the moment I first heard it while standing there in the middle of Tower Records. I listened to the entire work (it's only 4:55) at least twice before my friend came to find me.
The work is written for soprano, violin, and strings. It is a setting of only the vowel sounds of the word "Alleluia." John Tavener says of it: "This music should be sung and played with a restrained ecstasy. It should not bring pounding of the heart, nor should it lead to melancholy. Like all the music of the East, it should reveal in tranquility an eternal, angelic, ecstatic breath which liberates and humanises."
For me, it was about more than that. Let me allow you to show how my imagination runs wild on occasion. Christine, of course, was a soprano and so I imagine her singing up in her dressing room to Erik's violin far below in his home by the fifth cellar lake. The work has a sort of eerie resonance that immediately put this imagery in my head.
So for all my Phantom friends, I say "definitely give this a listen." For everyone else I will say the same. It's a beautifully serene work.
You can listen to it here. (I will note that this is the same recording I have of it, so you'll be listening to the same sounds I first heard!)