Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Cordelia Williams and Jeremy Begbie in Visions d'Amen

To Kings Chapel last night for a simply amazing performance of Messaien's Visions d'Amen by Cordelia Williams and Jeremy Begbie, which was part of the Easter at Kings festival and also Cordelia's wonderful Messaien 2015 project.

As an added bonus there was a wonderful talk by Rowan Williams beforehand. He said that Amen is both something we say to God and something God says to himself: not only the "Amen Amen" of Jesus but Paul says that Christ is an Amen to God.  He also noted that in this deeply theological piece, written in 1943 in occupied Paris, one voice will often leave the other to be itself in the way that love respects the autonomy of the other. To summarise a few of he points he made about the seven movements:
  1. The bell like sound of creation is a primal unity which is then refracted in Creation.
  2. The cosmos continues its own internal dialogue. Distance is also risk.
  3. The Amen of Jesus' agony. Only in the darkness of Jesus' self-emptying can the new creation begin. The trochee beat is both A-men and Ab-ba.
  4. The Amen of desire.
  5. The Amen of the Angels and Saint + birdsong. George Herbert once said he wanted to be a tree because a tree can worship God by being a tree, whereas humans have to work at it.
  6. The Amen of  Judgement. This contains the sound of things breaking up against the unity of God.
  7. The Amen of Consummation. This doesn't mean that everything is reduced and swallowed back into God, but the vision is that in God the new creation finds its own true life and destiny.
The performances were scintillating and revelatory: full of energy, grace, sensitivity and profundity fit for the astonishing music. The pianos were positioned as they had apparently been on the first performance: so that the stools were in line with the pianos pointing in opposite directions: the performers could communicate but there was the maximal stereo effect. Altogether wonderful and well worth the standing ovation.

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