GAVIN BRYARS (b.1943): The War in Heaven (Anja-Nina Bahrmann [soprano], Maarten Engeltjes [alto], Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands Chamber Philharmonic; Brad Lubman), Epilogue from the Opera G (Hans-Otto Weiss [bass-baritone], Elmer Andree [baritone], Staatsphilharmonie Mainz; Gernot Sahler).
Catalogue Number: 10Q073
Label: GB Records
Description: Bryars' cantata falls somewhere between the English choral tradition and New Spirituality. It combines, alternates and overlaps two texts; the Old English telling of the story of the fall of the rebellious angels from Heaven that precedes the Biblical book of Genesis, and the Sam Shepard/Joseph Chaikin monologue of a fallen angel trapped on Earth. Bryars' music avoids apocalyptic effects altogether, presenting the narrative in an imposingly stately series of choral tableaux, sonorous and magnificent, while the soloists weave eloquent melodic lines in their telling of the humanistic pleas of the broken and desolate protagonist. The work as a whole has a calm and melancholy beauty and imposing grandeur, tempered by the human-scale verses of the foreground soloists. The epilogue from Bryars' opera about Johannes Gutenberg sees the protagonist looking back on his life and achievements from the present day, in a somber, slow reflection with Wagnerian overtones and quotations from Bach. Old English, English and German-English texts.