[INDOLOGY] Tavener's Flood of Beauty (Saundaryalaharī)

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Wed Oct 1 06:38:19 UTC 2014

Dear colleagues,

The last major work by the late Sir John Tavener
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tavener>, the British composer, was a
modern classical setting of Śaṅkara's *Saundaryalaharī.*  It received its
premiere on Sunday last, at the Barbican in London
<http://www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?ID=15913>.  Sir John
worked with W. Norman Brown's text and translation (Harvard, 1958).

It was broadcast live on radio, and can be heard on BBC Radio 3's website
for a few more days: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04jj824.  (Listeners
outside the UK may need a VPN connection to a computer inside the UK.)

One listener who attended the premiere, said,

It was indeed an amazing flood, a wash of sound and texture, and indeed
text.  In the hall itself, I was rather tense and aware that it might seem
quite long, but after it was over, there was a sense that it could easily
have been enjoyed for longer, and the radio broadcast is very easy to

The translation of the text (there was so much!) was put on big screens,
but I am not sure that really helped - that ancient Sanskrit has a
different flavour all together.  Of course that was interesting in itself,
but overall, the music was the embodiment (as it were) of the text, so the
specific words weren't necessarily needed.

It was a flood, and it was beautiful.

Another performance is being planned for Singapore next year.

Dominik Wujastyk

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