Musician of the Week: John Tavener

John Tavener, was one of the most important composers in the United Kingdom, throughout his splendid career Tavener was recognized for his great spirituality and his works of sacred music, such as “one of the most inspired and unique voices in music of the last 50 years”.

“His work is one of the most significant contributions to classical music in our times”, said Christopher Rushton, managing director of Chester Music for which Tavener was recording. “To all those fortunate enough to know him, John was a man of deep beliefs, tremendous personal warmth, loyalty and humor, and he will be sorely missed.” he added.

John Tavener had poor health for much of his life and in 2007 he suffered a heart attack that forced him to spend four months in intensive care. In 1990 he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a hereditary ailment that affects the heart. one of his compositions Song for Athene It was performed at the funeral, in 1997, of Princess Diana of Wales.

John Tavener, the British composer to whom our Musician of the Week audition is dedicated, began his career in the 1960s with the label Apple Records of the Beatles and soon became one of the few contemporary classical composers whose music became popular with a wider audience.

In The Protective VeilJohn Tavener composed intensely lyrical solo cello music inspired by the Orthodox holiday of the protective veil of the mother of Godthe piece was commissioned by the BBC, for the series Promenade Concerts from 1989.

The composer wrote the notes to the theme of the work:
The feast of the protective veil of the Mother of God was instituted by the Orthodox Church to commemorate her appearance in the Church of Vlacherni (Constantinople), at the beginning of the tenth century, in the year 902 approximately. While the Greeks lived under the serious threat of a Saracen invasion, Andrew, the enlightened Saint, and his disciple Epiphanius had during a vigil a vision of the Mother of God surrounded by a group of saints, praying fervently and protecting with their veil the christians. Under this inspiration, the Greeks resisted the attack of the Saracens.

John Tavener was nominated twice, in 1992 and 1997, for the Mercury Music Awards and received the title “sir” in 2000. Tavener converted to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977 and saw his music as a way to reach God, as he had declared. Despite his fragile health, the musician continued to compose and premiered three new pieces at the Manchester International Festival in the north of England.

The enormous popularity of John Tavener’s music is reflected in the number of festivals that have incorporated his music into their programs. Among them are those in Perth, Athens, West Cook, Toronto, City of London and the Tavener Festival organized by the BBC to celebrate the composer’s 54th birthday.

It was while reflecting on traditional dictations that I began to write the opening solo melody for cello. In fact, it’s a palindrome because waking up and dying are like two sides of a sheet of paper. If you wake up spiritually, then you will die to everything that is not of God.

For composer and conductor John Milford Rutter, John Tavener he had the “very rare gift” of being able to “bring the audience into a deep silence”. In his work Nipsonfor countertenor and five violins, “The concept of inner silence is present throughout, as the composer contemplates his sins, whether voluntary or involuntary, overt or hidden. “Have mercy on me, oh God, have mercy on me…”

You can hear various works and the story of John Tavener on our Musician of the Week show on Monday, November 14, starting at 3:00 p.m. HJCK live signal.

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Musician of the Week: John Tavener