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John Tavener

January 28, 1944 - November 12, 2013
born in Wembley, London, England, composed during the Contemporary period
Among the most commercially successful of modern composers, John Tavener experienced a remarkable musical and spiritual odyssey. After his acceptance of the Orthodox Christian faith, he formulated a unique new idiom, often employing a slow, almost minimalist unfolding of melodic material. Much of his music was designed for religious services. His works often require odd combinations of forces, for example The Apocalypse (1993), for tenor, bass, soprano, mezzo-soprano, solo saxophonists, male choir, countertenor choir, organ, brass, string quartet, and string ensemble. Overall, he was considered a unique eclectic, part mystical and part populist.

Tavener was born in Wembley Park, near London. Long-held family beliefs to the contrary, he was probably not descended from Tudor composer John Taverner. He was raised a Protestant but as a young man converted to Catholicism. He studied piano, organ, and composition, and went on to study with Solomon, Lennox Berkeley, and Lumsdaine at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1968, after the composer's music impressed both John Lennon and Ringo Starr, Apple recorded his work The Whale. The next year, he became professor of composition at Trinity College.

In 1974, Tavener and Victoria Maragopoulou, a Greek ballet student, were married in an Orthodox ceremony. After eight months, however, she left for Greece, even though they remained legally married and friendly for a decade. Tavener received counsel from the Orthodox clergyman who had married them. Several works of the period, including The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, had an Orthodox or Russian bent, and in 1977 Tavener became a member of the Orthodox Church.

After recovering from a 1980 stroke, Tavener began to consider himself an Orthodox composer. In 1981 he met Mother Thekla, an Orthodox abbess in North Yorkshire. That year Prayer for the World appeared, and the composer described it as his most radical work. The palindromic Ikon of Light (1983), for chorus and string trio, was enthusiastically received, but still Tavener felt inadequate in his Russian Orthodox faith in comparison with Arvo Pärt, a member from birth and sometimes considered the more genuine of the two. After consulting with an Orthodox psychoanalyst, the composer embarked on the massive Orthodox Vigil Service (1984), for priests, chorus, and handbells.

In 1985 Tavener's mother died; he announced that he would cease composing, but he hardly broke stride. Among the works that followed was the heavily recorded The Protecting Veil (1987), for cello and strings. Shortly after finishing Thrinos (1990), for solo cello, Tavener had surgery to replace a defective heart valve. The composer recovered sufficiently to begin collaboration with Mother Thekla on Let's Begin Again (1995). With his first marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation, Tavener and Maryanna Schaefer were married in 1991. The 1992 Virgin Classics release of The Protecting Veil became a best-selling classical CD, spawning further efforts by other labels. By the mid-1990s Tavener's popularity in Britain rivaled that of Benjamin Britten in his prime, and he was gaining international attention. In 1996 Tavener's father died, and the composer wrote the Funeral Canticle in his memory. Tavener CD releases sold consistently on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 1999 Tavener began work on Fall And Resurrection. His 70-minute liturgical drama Lamentations and Praises was commissioned by the U.S. chorus Chanticleer and released on CD in 2002. He suffered a major heart attack in 2007, which worsened his health until he died in 2013. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Tavener: Lamentations & Praises

Title: Lamentations And Praises, A Liturgical Drama For Male Voices, Flute, Bass Trombone, String Quintet, Tape & Percussion
x

Track List: Tavener: Song For Athene / Svyati

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Track List: The Essential John Tavener

Disc 1
Title: The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra
Title: In Alium, For High Soprano, Strings, Piano, Grand Organ, Hammond Organ, Bells, Gongs & Four-track Tape
Disc 2
Title: Zodiacs, For Piano
Title: Ypakoë, Suite For Piano
Title: Palin, For Piano
Title: Mandoodles, For Piano
Title: Pratirupa, For Piano
Title: In Memory Of Cats, For Piano
Disc 3
Title: Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ
Title: Birthday Sleep, For Chorus
Title: O, Do Not Move, For Chorus
Title: A Nativity Carol, For Chorus
Title: Marienhymne, For 2 Choruses
Title: O Thou Gentle Light, For Tenor & Chorus
Title: Angels, For Chorus & Organ
Disc 4
Title: Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble)
Disc 5
Title: God Is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation), For Chorus & Organ
Title: Song For Athene, For Chorus
Title: The Lamb, For Chorus
Title: The Tiger, For Chorus & Organ
Title: Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus
Title: Funeral Ikos, For Chorus
Title: Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus
Title: Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus
Title: As One Who Has Slept, For Chorus
Title: The Lord's Prayer, For Chorus (1982)
Title: Syvati (O Holy One)

Comments

R.I.P. John Tavener, and thank you!
Not only is it Tavener whom I love, but this choir is a remarkable example of all the necessary principles of great choral ensemble production. I look forward to hearing much more from this choir.
trmaurer11
Tavener's compositions will cleanse one's soul.
jackandrews
Hallelujah. Music to erase the cobwebs and fill the heart.
tgwebste
El Guapo, yes. His composition "Song for Athene" was used as the recessional anthem at the Princess's funeral. I have performed that work, and it is absolutely beautiful. His use of a drone in all four parts combined with the dissonance and subsequent major triumph mirroring the text is just heavenly
no I did not......wil l someone help me out
I think of the world in mysterium. The brain erases marks made by religious scars. Tavener's conversion to a world of artificial faith, limits the creative potentiate of libido. Mahler's eighth inspired by Eros, is a prime example of art beyond an ordinary threshold. As long as church bells don't ring all day, the sight and sound is worth hearing.
dameyermd
I enjoy this composer...b u t . . . h e can be jarringly dissonant. Preview his songs before you buy! David Meyer
.....these tavener choral comps are the bee's knees......i n a manner of speaking. love his use of dissonance at regular intervals... . . . . d i d you know one of his anthems was part of diana's funeral?

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