February 18, 2006

MUSIC TO BURN BY:

Joan's Passion on the Screen, Plus Chorus and Orchestra (ANTHONY TOMMASINI, 2/18/06, NY Times)

Should the composer Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" be heard as an oratorio that accompanies the 1928 silent film classic "The Passion of Joan of Arc"? Or is it the film, by the Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, that accompanies Mr. Einhorn's 80-minute musical work? [...]

"Voices of Light" has been performed more than 100 times around the world over the last 10 years, providing a nice income source for Mr. Einhorn, who has also been a record producer. If nothing else, the composer deserves thanks for introducing new audiences to Dreyer's masterpiece, which was nearly lost.

Shortly after its premiere, the film was destroyed in a fire. Though shattered, Dreyer reconstructed an acceptable version using negatives from outtakes. Incredibly, the replacement film was lost in a second fire. For decades the work was known only through various bastardized versions. Then, in 1981, as Mr. Einhorn explained to the audience, an intact copy of the original film was discovered in a janitor's closet in a mental hospital in Oslo. When Mr. Einhorn saw this wonderfully restored print, he was moved to compose his score.

"Voices of Light" has a libretto of Latin and French texts assembled by Mr. Einhorn. Anonymous 4 sing quotations of Joan's words from the transcript of her trial for blasphemy in 1431. The chorus and soloists sing a patchwork of writings from medieval mystics, mostly women. Mr. Einhorn's sensitive score deftly shifts styles from evocations of neomedieval counterpoint to wistful modal murmurings over droning pedal tones, from bursts of Minimalistic repetitions to moments of piercing modern harmony.


The Criterion Collection version of the film is set to Voices of Light and is amazing. Also, check out Garrett Fisher's haunting Passion of Thomas More.



Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2006 8:38 AM
Comments

I love those Criterion Classics. So far I have picked up "The Seven Samurai" and Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bete," although I hear that there is a newer version of the Cocteau film set to the Glass Opera.

Posted by: ted welter at February 18, 2006 12:39 PM
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