John Tavener (b. 1944) is one of the most performed and recorded contemporary composers. "The Lamb" and "Song for Athene" have become choral standards. His current style (developing since his conversion to the Orthodox Church) is austere yet accessible, and aspires to a spirituality which is very much in tune with that of popular culture. There is a fine line between simple and simplistic, however, and too often in "Fall and Resurrection" Tavener fails to negotiate the difference.
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.