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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

x

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: John Tavener: Missa Wellensis

Title: Missa Wellensis, for double chorus
Title: The Lord's Prayer, For Chorus (1999)
Title: Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus
Title: Preces and Responses, for double chorus
Title: Wedding Greeting (I will lift up mine eyes), for tenor & chorus
Title: Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale), for chorus
Title: Preces and Responses, for double chorus
Title: Song For Athene, For Chorus
Title: Prayer for the Healing of the Sick, for chorus
Title: They are all gone into the world of light, for chorus
Title: Preces and Responses, for double chorus
x

Track List: Tavener: Fall And Resurrection

Title: Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra

1. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: Silence, Darkness: In The Beginning, Before Time

2. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: Representation Of Chaos

3. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: Paradise

4. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: The Serpent

5. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: Catastrophe: The Implications Of The Fall

6. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: Adam's Lament

7. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 1: The Lament Of Mankind

8. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 2: Prediction

9. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 3: The Incarnation Of The Logos

10. Fall And Resurrection, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra: Part 3: Cosmic Dance Of The Resurrection: All Is Transfigured

x

Track List: Tavener: Song For Athene / Svyati

Title: God Is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation), For Chorus & Organ

1. God Is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation), For Chorus & Organ: Christmas Proclamation

Title: Song For Athene, For Chorus

2. Song For Athene, For Chorus: Song For Athene

Title: The Lamb, For Chorus

3. The Lamb, For Chorus: The Lamb

Title: The Tyger, For Chorus

4. The Tyger, For Chorus: The Tyger

Title: Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus

5. Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus: I. Magnificat

6. Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus: II. Nunc Dimittis

Title: Funeral Ikos, For Chorus

7. Funeral Ikos, For Chorus: Funeral Ikos

Title: Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus

8. Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus: I. A Hymn To The Mother Of God

9. Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus: II. Hymn For The Dormition Of The Mother Of God

Title: Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus

10. Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus: Love Bade Me Welcome

Title: As One Who Has Slept, For Chorus

11. As One Who Has Slept, For Chorus: As One Who Has Slept

Title: The Lord's Prayer, For Chorus (1982)

12. The Lord's Prayer, For Chorus (1982): The Lord's Prayer

Title: Svyati, For Voices & Cello

13. Svyati, For Voices & Cello: Svyati "O Holy One"

x

Track List: The Essential John Tavener

Disc 1
Title: The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra

1. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: I. Section I

2. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: II. Annunciation

3. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: III. The Incarnation

4. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: IV. Lament Of The Mother Of God At The Cross

5. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: V. Christ Is Risen!

6. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: VI. The Dormition Of The Mother Of God

7. The Protecting Veil, For Cello & Orchestra: VII. The Protecting Veil

Title: In Alium, For High Soprano, Strings, Piano, Grand Organ, Hammond Organ, Bells, Gongs & Four-track Tape

8. In Alium, For High Soprano, Strings, Piano, Grand Organ, Hammond Organ, Bells, Gongs & Four-track Tape: I. Section A

9. In Alium, For High Soprano, Strings, Piano, Grand Organ, Hammond Organ, Bells, Gongs & Four-track Tape: II. Section B

10. In Alium, For High Soprano, Strings, Piano, Grand Organ, Hammond Organ, Bells, Gongs & Four-track Tape: III. Section C

11. In Alium, For High Soprano, Strings, Piano, Grand Organ, Hammond Organ, Bells, Gongs & Four-track Tape: IV. Section D

Disc 2
Title: Zodiacs, For Piano

1. Zodiacs, For Piano: Zodiacs

Title: Ypakoë, Suite For Piano

2. Ypakoë, Suite For Piano: Ypakoë, Suite For Piano

Title: Palin, For Piano

3. Palin, For Piano: Palin, For Piano

Title: Mandoodles, For Piano

4. Mandoodles, For Piano: Mandoodles, For Piano

Title: Pratirupa, For Piano

5. Pratirupa, For Piano: Pratirupa, For Piano

Title: In Memory Of Cats, For Piano

6. In Memory Of Cats, For Piano: In Memory Of Cats, For Piano

Disc 3
Title: Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ

1. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: I. Verbum Caro

2. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: II. Nowell! Nowell! Out Of Your Sleep

3. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: III. Remember O Thou Man

4. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: IV. Sweet Was The Song

5. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: V. Ave Rex Angelorum

6. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: VI. There Is No Rose

7. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: VII. Ding! Dong! Merrily On High

8. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: VIII. Rocking

9. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: IX. Unto Us Is Born A Son

10. Ex Maria Virgine, A Christmas Sequence For Chorus & Organ: X. Verbum Caro (Finale)

Title: Birthday Sleep, For Chorus

11. Birthday Sleep, For Chorus: Birthday Sleep, For Chorus

Title: O, Do Not Move, For Chorus

12. O, Do Not Move, For Chorus: O, Do Not Move, For Chorus

Title: A Nativity Carol, For Chorus

13. A Nativity Carol, For Chorus: A Nativity Carol, For Chorus

Title: Marienhymne, For 2 Choruses

14. Marienhymne, For 2 Choruses: Marienhymne, For 2 Choruses

Title: O Thou Gentle Light, For Tenor & Chorus

15. O Thou Gentle Light, For Tenor & Chorus: O Thou Gentle Light, For Tenor & Chorus

Title: Angels, For Chorus & Organ

16. Angels, For Chorus & Organ: Angels, For Chorus & Organ

Disc 4
Title: Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble)

1. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): I. Stanza I

2. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): II. Cosmic Lament I

3. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): III. Stanza II

4. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): IV. Cosmic Lament II

5. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): V. Stanza III

6. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): VI. Cosmic Lament III

7. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): VII. Stanza IV

8. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): VIII. Cosmic Lament IV

9. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): IX. Stanza V

10. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): X. Cosmic Lament V

11. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): XI. Stanza VI

12. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): XII. Cosmic Lament VI

13. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): XIII. Stanza VII

14. Lament For Jerusalem, For Soprano, Countertenor, Chorus & Orchestra (Or Ensemble): XIV. Cosmic Lament VII

Disc 5
Title: God Is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation), For Chorus & Organ

1. God Is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation), For Chorus & Organ: God Is With Us (A Christmas Proclamation), For Chorus & Organ

Title: Song For Athene, For Chorus

2. Song For Athene, For Chorus: Song For Athene, For Chorus

Title: The Lamb, For Chorus

3. The Lamb, For Chorus: The Lamb, For Chorus

Title: The Tiger, For Chorus & Organ

4. The Tiger, For Chorus & Organ: The Tiger, For Chorus & Organ

Title: Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus

5. Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus: I. Magnificat

6. Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis, For Chorus: II. Nunc Dimittis

Title: Funeral Ikos, For Chorus

7. Funeral Ikos, For Chorus: Funeral Ikos, For Chorus

Title: Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus

8. Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus: I. A Hymn To The Mother Of God

9. Hymns (2) To The Mother Of God, For Chorus: II. Hymn For The Dormition Of The Mother Of God

Title: Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus

10. Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus: Love Bade Me Welcome, For Chorus

Title: As One Who Has Slept, For Chorus

11. As One Who Has Slept, For Chorus: As One Who Has Slept, For Chorus

Title: The Lord's Prayer, For Chorus (1982)

12. The Lord's Prayer, For Chorus (1982): The Lord's Prayer

Title: Syvati (O Holy One)

13. Syvati (O Holy One): Syvati (O Holy One)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
R.I.P. John Tavener, and thank you!
Report as inappropriate
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.
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trmaurer11
Tavener's compositions will cleanse one's soul.
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jackandrews
Hallelujah. Music to erase the cobwebs and fill the heart.
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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
Report as inappropriate
no I did not......wil l someone help me out
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
dameyermd
I enjoy this composer...b u t . . . h e can be jarringly dissonant. Preview his songs before you buy! David Meyer
Report as inappropriate
.....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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