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Water Passion St. Matthew

Tan Dun , Dun Tan Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 52.95
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Disc: 1
1. Baptism
2. Temptations
3. Last Supper
4. Water Cadenza
5. In The Garden Of Gethsemane
Disc: 2
1. Stone Song
2. Give Us Barabbast!
3. Death And Earthquake
4. Water And Resurrection

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5.0 out of 5 stars St. Matthew Passion as World Ritual April 16 2003
Format:Audio CD
The concept for this contribution to the Passion 2000 project smacked so much of "political correctness" and world music crossover gimmickry that I almost passed it by. Tan Dun is a composer that intrigues me, but the idea of a Buddhist making understandable this most Christian of stories seemed quite a stretch to me. I shouldn't have worried at all. I have heard three of the four works from the Passion 2000 project, and Tan Dun's work is by far the deepest spiritually. It is an altogether remarkable work.
Tan Dun was given the Passion according to Matthew. Not content to deal merely with the passion story, Dun's work starts with the Baptism of Jesus, includes the Temptation in the Wilderness and then continues with the Last Supper, Garden of Gethsemane, the Betrayal/Denial, Trial, Crucifixion and atypically, ends with the Resurrection. Each section is set apart, almost as a tableau, with a ritualistic quality. Tan Dun's "orchestration" is simple but remarkably effective. The work is scored for choir, soprano and baritone soloists, three percussionists, violin and cello soloists and electronics. Many extended techniques are called for. The soprano has to test the greatest extent of her range with declamation that recalls Chinese opera, and the baritone is required to sing in overtones, influenced by Tuvan throat singing. The choir also plays stones, Tibetan bells and other small instruments. The percussionists get the most fascinating instruments. Tan Dun has long been interested in what he calls "water percussion" - instruments which use water as a significant part of their sounding. The effect in this work is elemental...the use of water sounds, stones (specified to have been taken from a river or the ocean) and other natural elements emphasizes the basic natural elements of the story.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars St. Matthew Passion as World Ritual April 16 2003
By Christopher Forbes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The concept for this contribution to the Passion 2000 project smacked so much of "political correctness" and world music crossover gimmickry that I almost passed it by. Tan Dun is a composer that intrigues me, but the idea of a Buddhist making understandable this most Christian of stories seemed quite a stretch to me. I shouldn't have worried at all. I have heard three of the four works from the Passion 2000 project, and Tan Dun's work is by far the deepest spiritually. It is an altogether remarkable work.
Tan Dun was given the Passion according to Matthew. Not content to deal merely with the passion story, Dun's work starts with the Baptism of Jesus, includes the Temptation in the Wilderness and then continues with the Last Supper, Garden of Gethsemane, the Betrayal/Denial, Trial, Crucifixion and atypically, ends with the Resurrection. Each section is set apart, almost as a tableau, with a ritualistic quality. Tan Dun's "orchestration" is simple but remarkably effective. The work is scored for choir, soprano and baritone soloists, three percussionists, violin and cello soloists and electronics. Many extended techniques are called for. The soprano has to test the greatest extent of her range with declamation that recalls Chinese opera, and the baritone is required to sing in overtones, influenced by Tuvan throat singing. The choir also plays stones, Tibetan bells and other small instruments. The percussionists get the most fascinating instruments. Tan Dun has long been interested in what he calls "water percussion" - instruments which use water as a significant part of their sounding. The effect in this work is elemental...the use of water sounds, stones (specified to have been taken from a river or the ocean) and other natural elements emphasizes the basic natural elements of the story.
The overall result is quite moving. The piece begins with a droned sound, in many ways reminiscent of the opening of Wagner's Ring cycle. Then the choir introduces a chorale melody that appears in various guises during the rest of the work. Each tableaux of the work is highly differentiated and given some recognizable sonic symbol. As the story progresses toward the cross, the music becomes wilder and more impassioned. The final section, which poetically represents the Resurrection, is as lovely a closing as I could imagine for this work...in many ways as moving as the music for the final scene of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Dun strips the passion story down to it's bare spiritual essentials and creates a work of almost ritual power.
The live recording is terrific. A better or cleaner one could not be asked for. The string soloists are marvelous, including the ever-fabulous Mark O'Connor on the violin. Both vocal soloists handle the demanding requirements of the piece with grace and aplomb and the choral singing is exquisite. The one thing missing in this wonderful CD is the visual element, which is quite pronounced in this piece, I gather in much the same way as it is in the work of Crumb. This is only a small matter though. In general, I find this to be the strongest, least traditional, and most spiritually moving work of the Passion 2000 cycle, at least that I've heard. Highly recommended!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tan Dun: A Composer as much for the Visual as the Aural April 29 2005
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Tan Dun, the 48-year-old composer from Hunan, China now living in the US, has entered the world of notoriety in composition based on successes with music scores for majestic Chinese films. It is not unusual, then, that his works for the stage and for orchestra and voices have a decided visual bent. In a recent premiere of a revised work commissioned by the LA Philharmonic for the opening of Disney Hall - "Paper Concerto for Paper Percussion and Orchestra" - it becomes even more understandable why his music is reaching a wide audience: it is simple, accessible, highly dependent on stagecraft and amplification using his favorite elements remembered from childhood - paper, stone, and water. And while he amazes with his ability to pull as much sound from his 'non-instruments' such as paper or water, his actual orchestral writing is repetitive and minimally interesting.

So it is with WATER PASSION. Again, the works should be seen as well as heard: the LA Master Chorale recently performed this work and while the various manipulations of water vessels and pourings are visually beautiful, the choral writing is thick to the point of indecipherable and the instrumental portion is reduced to incidental effects.

This recording does its best to capitalize on the absence of the visual and because it is a captured live recording, both the tension and message that is oddly present are as well done as can be expected. Time will tell whether this music is lasting and viable, but for the moment Tan Dun has found a responsive audience for his interesting investigation of the sounds of the world of nature. Grady Harp, April 05
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving music, performed beautifully and passionately Jan. 19 2010
By David J. Huber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I had the great pleasure to hear a performance of this at the Brooklyn Academy of Music soon after it premiered, and was moved deeply by the text and music and especially the use of water as an instrument.

This recording is very good, and I'm very glad to have it. The only downside is that, as good as the music is, it really is also a ritual of sorts that needs the visual component of the musicians and singers, all of whom are on stage and visible, and who move around. The instrumentalists playing the water are especially captivating to watch as they use their many objects and devices to get varying sounds from the water (such as clapping on the water for a percussive effect; or pulling water out of a bowl with a colander, so that the water flows down back into the bowl making a rain sound; splashing; and so on).

I think this is a very sensitive and moving interpretation of the texts, and the inclusion of water into the score brings in so many images of life and of the Biblical narrative: the waters of the womb and of our planet, as well as the waters of the flood, the parting of the Sea of Reeds, the dew of Harmon, the waters of baptism.

As one reviewer mentioned, who was surprised at what he/she was getting into, this is some pretty avante-garde stuff - this is not Bach or Haydn. But it's not also not as extreme as Schoenberg. Tan Dun is part of a legacy of exploration that is able to quite beautifully bridge the worlds of harmonic and tonal forms of the old masters with the complete rejection of harmony and tonality of the 1900s serialists and atonalists, while bringing in some of Cage's chance-style approach to music and the ritualistic nature of Meredith Monk or Robert Wilson.

Great stuff, and I'm glad to finally have a copy on CD. I just hope they do a DVD of it sometime so people can see as well as hear the full grandeur of this piece.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spent Passion May 20 2013
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Tan Dun's "Water Passion after Saint Matthew" was commissioned by Helmuth Rilling and the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart for the Passion 2000 project in commemoration of Johann Sebastian Bach. Sofia Gubaidulina, Osvaldo Golijov, and Wolfgang Rihm were also commissioned to compose Passions, each of them assigned one of the four gospel narratives of the crucifixion. Tan Dun chose to set his snippets of text in colloquial English and to assign most of the recitation to a bass voice usually singing in the role of Jesus. A second soloist, a soprano, sings roles including Satan, Judas, Peter, and the anonymous accuser of Peter. A chorus sings non-scriptural interpolations, the voice of Pontius Pilate and the traditional turbulent Jewish populace.

It's quite unlikely that any listener not steeped in the Christian Passion narrative could reconstruct that narrative from this setting. That's not particularly a fault in the composition. Honestly, if I could hear this piece as abstract music, ignoring the words per se, I might like it better. But to my ears, it's just cheap thrills. Commissioned spirituality. Micro-tonal religious pettifogging spliced over the sound track from a Sino-Japanese ghost-samurai film.

Tan Dun's music is thoroughly heterophonic; counterpoint and tonality be gone! He shapes his soundscapes around 'natural' noises - gurgling water, paper tearing, stones clattering, etc. - blending the timbres of classical Chinese and classical European instruments, particularly percussion. His credits include the soundtracks for the films "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero," and the operas "The First Emperor" and "Tea." Though Tan Dun is Chinese, from Hunan Province, his music often reminds me most of the ancient Japanese court orchestra repertoire called "gagaku." To enjoy gagaku, one has to abandon all European notions of music as mathematical proportion (harmony) and development. Such music is like a cabinet of gems or seashells, no doubt classified and ordered but each to be esteemed in and of itself. "Tea" is a successful composition, to my ears, because it respects its own premises of "found sound." This "Water Passion" fails because it devalues its musical means in pursuit of a non-musical end.

Tan Dun - Tea, A Mirror of Soul / Lundy, Fu, Gillet, Richardson, Liang, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Opera
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous! Dec 11 2011
By William Jens Jensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
First, I love Tan Dun's music, well represented by three of my favorite CDs: Kronos Quartet's performance of "Ghost Opera"; "Bitter Love," music taken from his opera "The Peony Pavilion"; and his soundtrack from the beautiful movie "Hero." "Water Passion," of course, is quite different, being a kind of sacred cantata (especially different from his film music, of which there is much). Nonetheless, many of the elements that are familiar to Tan Dun fans are here, particularly in the vocals and in his use of ambient natural sounds, in this case water. It is tempting to try to describe the music itself, but to paraphrase a well known comment: talking about music is like dancing about architecture. In the case of "Water Passion," it is best just to take a chance and get the CD; the samples here are inadequate to give a real impression of the whole. Like the music of Toru Takemitsu, each of Tan Dun's works is completely unique; liking one doesn't mean you will like another. But, as with most great music, the reward comes with repeated, close, and open-minded listening.
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