Personalities | (Sir) John Tavener | Contemporary | Classical

English composer

Tavener first had his music performed while studying at the Royal Academy of Music, but came to wider attention with the premiere of his dramatic cantata The Whale at the London Sinfonietta’s inaugural concert in 1968. The Beatles’ Apple label recorded both it and Tavener’s next work, the Celtic Requiem – an often unsettling blend of the Mass for the Dead with children’s rhymes, and of rudimentary note-rows with major tonality. During the 1970s the austere textures of late Stravinsky came to the fore in Ultimos ritos (1972) and Requiem for Father Malachy (1973). After he was received into the Orthodox Church in 1977, his music increasingly made use of static, modal harmonies, transparent textures and chant-derived melodies, in works both choral (such as Ikon of Light, 1984) and instrumental – such as The Protecting Veil (1987) for cello and string orchestra, played to a rapturous reception at the 1989 Proms. Tavener later reached an even wider audience with his Song for Athene (1993), sung at the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997. While remaining in the Orthodox church, he seemed in later life to embrace a more pluralistic religious outlook: both the The Veil of the Temple, a vigil-inspired work lasting seven hours, and the Requiem (2007) use elements of Catholic and Orthodox liturgy along with Qur’anic, Sufi and Hindu texts.

Recommended Recording:
The Protecting Veil, Thrinos, Steven Isserlis, LSO (cond) Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Virgin/Erato)

Introduction | Contemporary | Classical
Personalities | (Sir) Michael Tippett | Contemporary | Classical


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