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Peter Clark

Mandelion - John Tavener

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I got this score from Musicroom today and must say I am disappointed. Not with the music itself, but the presentation. It is basically a reproduction of the composer's own manuscript (first draft I reckon) in a somewhat scrawled hand, and difficult to read in many places. The spacing of the ledger lines in the script is totally inconsistent, accidentals are not always in line with the note they modify, and the verticle alignment of simultaneously sounding chords/notes is not always accurate. I think that these days with so many music origination programmes on the market publishing houses such as these could spend a litle time in getting their products in a readable condition.

 

This cost me £13.95, and I intend to write to the distributer and the publisher about their not carryimg a health warning. Is this worth doing? Do any other contributers have similar experiences?

 

Peter

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I've just spent a not inconsiderable sum replacing my choir's copies of Goreki's 'Totus Tuus'. The version that they possessed was a purchased, entirely legitimate but very poor quality photocopy of what I assume to be the manuscript.

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I got this score from Musicroom today and must say I am disappointed. Not with the music itself, but the presentation. It is basically a reproduction of the composer's own manuscript (first draft I reckon) in a somewhat scrawled hand, and difficult to read in many places. The spacing of the ledger lines in the script is totally inconsistent, accidentals are not always in line with the note they modify, and the verticle alignment of simultaneously sounding chords/notes is not always accurate. I think that these days with so many music origination programmes on the market publishing houses such as these could spend a litle time in getting their products in a readable condition.

 

This cost me £13.95, and I intend to write to the distributer and the publisher about their not carryimg a health warning. Is this worth doing? Do any other contributers have similar experiences?

 

Peter

 

 

Peter, I agree, especially seeing that most musicians worth their salt have a copy of Sibelius or some other music writing programme. To have to pay that for something that is almost unreadable in this day and age is not really acceptable!

Even my GCSE students are submitting their stuff to the exam boards in Sibelius these days!

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Peter, I agree, especially seeing that most musicians worth their salt have a copy of Sibelius or some other music writing programme. To have to pay that for something that is almost unreadable in this day and age is not really acceptable!

Even my GCSE students are submitting their stuff to the exam boards in Sibelius these days!

 

 

Here is the reply I got from Musicroom:

 

I am acutely aware of the problems with this piece and it has long been the intention to have this properly originated and edited, but since John took ill in 2007 the editorial process that he was always so keenly involved with has become a problematic issue and indeed with these ‘back catalogue’ works has almost ground to a halt. A work of this size and difficulty does not sell many copies, though I am acutely aware that a score in this condition does not invite sales. Nonetheless, there are performances from time to time and I feel that for a special order title, £13.95 is a fair price; better for it to be available in handwritten manuscript than not at all. Obviously with new works (and all since around 1997) we engrave these by default once a commissioning contract has been signed, but there are several pieces by John as there are with many other composers in the catalogue particularly from the early 1980s that remain in manuscript.

 

 

 

John is now at home and recovering slowly, but he is extremely frail. While he is not writing at the moment, I will suggest that this piece is revisited and engraved. John will almost certainly wish to re-visit the piece and will probably introduce a number of changes. If you are willing to wait we can send you a copy when this process is completed, but in light of the composer’s current condition, this may take some months.

 

I think this is encouraging in some ways. Acute awareness seems to key emotion here. Anyway I've offered to set it for them!

 

Peter

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Here is the reply I got from Musicroom:

 

I am acutely aware of the problems with this piece and it has long been the intention to have this properly originated and edited, but since John took ill in 2007 the editorial process that he was always so keenly involved with has become a problematic issue and indeed with these ‘back catalogue’ works has almost ground to a halt. A work of this size and difficulty does not sell many copies, though I am acutely aware that a score in this condition does not invite sales. Nonetheless, there are performances from time to time and I feel that for a special order title, £13.95 is a fair price; better for it to be available in handwritten manuscript than not at all. Obviously with new works (and all since around 1997) we engrave these by default once a commissioning contract has been signed, but there are several pieces by John as there are with many other composers in the catalogue particularly from the early 1980s that remain in manuscript.

 

 

 

John is now at home and recovering slowly, but he is extremely frail. While he is not writing at the moment, I will suggest that this piece is revisited and engraved. John will almost certainly wish to re-visit the piece and will probably introduce a number of changes. If you are willing to wait we can send you a copy when this process is completed, but in light of the composer’s current condition, this may take some months.

 

I think this is encouraging in some ways. Acute awareness seems to key emotion here. Anyway I've offered to set it for them!

 

Peter

 

 

What an intelligent and sensitive response you got! I am truly impressed.

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John will almost certainly wish to re-visit the piece and will probably introduce a number of changes. If you are willing to wait we can send you a copy when this process is completed, but in light of the composer’s current condition, this may take some months.

 

This is all most interesting, in light of what Geoffrey Haydon found when writing "Glimpses of Paradise" (the first in-depth study of John Tavener and his music)...

 

He notes that the composer did not seem to care much for "Mandelion" (originally supposed to be an orchestral work) - he is quite pleased with the closing section "Dormition of the Mother of God" but "deplores the traces of Messiaen" throughout the rest of the piece. Indeed, it's a similar story with many of Tavener's earlier works: until he fully embraced Greek Orthodox music, he spent a lot of time experimenting with serialism and other formulaic methods which he subsequently came to detest.

 

"Mandelion" therefore doesn't strike me as the sort of piece Tavener would want to revisit, much less revise. On the other hand, it remains his only solo organ work and as such it attracts periodic interest, as evidenced by those of us on this board who have copies (yes, I've got the scrawled m.s. too, and there are quite a number of other Tavener works available via Special Order which are also m.s. photocopies) and implicit in the publisher's response to the query.

 

I guess we must wait and see what happens...

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Incidentally - and again according to Geoffrey Haydon - if Tavener's notational skills leave something to be desired, it's probably due to the fact that right up until the premieres of his earliest works he needed help from his musically-more-literate friends at Highgate School, including John Rutter, in whose hand is written the score of "Genesis," the first large-scale Tavener choral work.

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This is all most interesting, in light of what Geoffrey Haydon found when writing "Glimpses of Paradise" (the first in-depth study of John Tavener and his music)...

 

He notes that the composer did not seem to care much for "Mandelion" (originally supposed to be an orchestral work) - he is quite pleased with the closing section "Dormition of the Mother of God" but "deplores the traces of Messiaen" throughout the rest of the piece. Indeed, it's a similar story with many of Tavener's earlier works: until he fully embraced Greek Orthodox music, he spent a lot of time experimenting with serialism and other formulaic methods which he subsequently came to detest.

 

"Mandelion" therefore doesn't strike me as the sort of piece Tavener would want to revisit, much less revise. On the other hand, it remains his only solo organ work and as such it attracts periodic interest, as evidenced by those of us on this board who have copies (yes, I've got the scrawled m.s. too, and there are quite a number of other Tavener works available via Special Order which are also m.s. photocopies) and implicit in the publisher's response to the query.

 

I guess we must wait and see what happens...

 

Was Tavener's deploring of traces of Messiaen due to an aversion to Messiaen's music (JT was after all a convinced Orthodox at the time) or was it that he deplored being (in his view) derivative, I wonder. I don't actually see a lot of Messiaen there, other than the sectional nature of the piece and the infrequent Messiean-like passages.

 

Peter

 

Peter

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I had a try at a play-through of this today and then took the score home to read it while I heard the CD (Kevin Bowyer). One reason for this was that as the score itself - as remarked earlier - is so untidy I thought I might get some ideas from Kevin's playing of it - which I did. But one question is now in my mind - is the theme which dominates the piece a genuine Orthodox chant, or one fabricated by Tavener. Either way it makes no difference as it is certainly an arresting theme, particularly in the way the composer introduces it at the beginning. Any thoughts?

 

Peter

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Here is the reply I got from Musicroom:

 

I am acutely aware of the problems with this piece and it has long been the intention to have this properly originated and edited, but since John took ill in 2007 the editorial process that he was always so keenly involved with has become a problematic issue and indeed with these ‘back catalogue’ works has almost ground to a halt. A work of this size and difficulty does not sell many copies, though I am acutely aware that a score in this condition does not invite sales. Nonetheless, there are performances from time to time and I feel that for a special order title, £13.95 is a fair price; better for it to be available in handwritten manuscript than not at all. Obviously with new works (and all since around 1997) we engrave these by default once a commissioning contract has been signed, but there are several pieces by John as there are with many other composers in the catalogue particularly from the early 1980s that remain in manuscript.

 

 

 

John is now at home and recovering slowly, but he is extremely frail. While he is not writing at the moment, I will suggest that this piece is revisited and engraved. John will almost certainly wish to re-visit the piece and will probably introduce a number of changes. If you are willing to wait we can send you a copy when this process is completed, but in light of the composer’s current condition, this may take some months.

 

I think this is encouraging in some ways. Acute awareness seems to key emotion here. Anyway I've offered to set it for them!

 

Peter

I suppose, now that Sir John has passed away, no changes can be made to the score as he can no longer approve them. Chester might even be prepared to take you up on your typesetting offer! Perhaps you should contact them again and see what the response is this time?

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Ironically, I found this on musicroom the other day - it now appears to have been edited into a typeset copy by person(s) unidentified.

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