4 And More Music

Gavin Bryars: The War in Heaven

Bryars, Gavin

War in Heaven, The / Epilogue From G

Bahrmann, Anja-Nina / Engeltjes, Maarten / Lubman, Brad / Netherlands Chamber Philharmonic / Netherlands Radio Choir

GB Records
5052442004882 | BCGBCD 19 | 1CD
The War in Heaven features not only that eponymous large-scale work by Gavin Bryars for voices and orchestra, but also the very first release of music from any of Bryars' four operas, Epilogue from G. The recordings were made in the composer's presence and under his supervision.

A large-scale cantata for two solo voices (soprano and male alto), half chorus, full chorus and orchestra, The War in Heaven was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who gave the first and, until now, only performance at the Royal Festival Hall in 1993. There are two parallel texts: one in English for the soloists that sets the monologue 'The War in Heaven' by Sam Shepard, the other in old Anglo-Saxon for the chorus. The solo vocal parts make extreme demands of the singers with virtuosic passages and very high notes - here two young singers with voices of extraordinary beauty and power, Anja-Nina Bahrmann and Maarten Engeltjes, who are not in the least intimidated by such things! The performance was recorded live in the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam.

Epilogue from G comes from the end of Gavin Bryars' third opera G (the full title is G, being the Confession and Last Testament of Johannes Gensfleisch, also known as Gutenberg, Master Printer, formerly of Strasbourg and Mainz). The opera, which is sung in German, uses two different singers for the principal role and the Epilogue is conceived as a kind of solo cantata. Here the benign older Gutenberg, sung by the Wagnerian bass-baritone Hans-Otto Weiss, with the younger Gutenberg alongside him, muses on his achievement and asks, now that the print era he inaugurated is over, to be left in peace. He is accompanied by 21 solo strings and off-stage low brass (solo horn, four Wagner tubas, two tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba). This is a studio recording, performed on the stage of the Staats Theater Mainz in October 2002, and was made shortly after the successful run of 11 performances earlier that year.
Personnel: Anja-Nina Bahrmann (soprano), Maarten Engeltjes (alto), Netherlands Radio Choir, Gils Leenaars (director), Netherlands Chamber Philharmonic, Brad Lubman (conductor), Track 13: Hans-Otto Weiss (bass baritone), Elmer Andree (baritone), Staats Philharmonie Mainz, Gernot Sahler (conductor)