Bryars: The Sinking of the Titanic

The Sinking of the Titanic
Various artists
Point Music/Polygram
Catalogue Number:
446 061-2 DDD
BBC Music Magazine
After the artistic vandalism perpetrated on Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet in 1993 by its composer, I feared the worst. Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic dates, like Jesus’ Blood, from the early Seventies; the two works appeared together on an LP in 1975. Titanic is based on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the ship in 1912. It takes its starting point from a report that the ship’s band played a hymn tune as the Titanic sank. Anything relevant to the disaster – interviews with survivors, hypothetical reconstructions – then becomes potential material for reworking. What, Bryars asks for instance, might the hymn tune sound like under water? In fact, some of the original’s idiosyncratic spirit remains. A version issued on the Belgian Crépuscule label in 1990 had already incorporated new elements: the indulgent CD length, Chris Ekers’s sophisticated sound design, a moving bass clarinet ‘lament’. Bryars’s concern to maximise sales at the current National Maritime Museum’s Titanic exhibition may now be detectable in the more dramatically manipulated structure and the way in which the hymn is often allowed to emerge more clearly from its surroundings. A boys’ choir, too, seems horribly gratuitous. Thankfully, however, the old magic proves unsinkable. But why are the booklet notes printed in such a perversely unreadable way? Keith Potter
Spohr: Nonet in F; Octet in E; Waltz in A (Erinnerung an Marienbad)
previous review Article
Roussel: Piano Trio in E flat; Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor; Divertissement
next review Article
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here