© Simone Canetty-Clarke
Brief Biography: Tavener first came to public attention in 1968 when his avant-garde oratorio The Whale was premiered at the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta. As the years progressed his music became increasingly spiritual in conception, contemplative in its idiom, and popular with audiences worldwide. In 1977 he joined the Orthodox Church which was a major inspiration on his work for the following two decades. From the late 1990s he looked for inspiration from alternative sources by his interest in the universalist philosophy, which embraces all great religious traditions: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the spirituality of the American Indians. Most recently he has been inspired by the work of Tolstoy.
For a complete biography, click here.
|Key Works: |
- The Whale
(1966; orchestra, choir, soloists)
- The Lamb
- The Protecting Veil
(1988; cello, strings)
- The Veil of the Temple
(2002; ensemble, choir, soloists)
- Schuon Lieder (2003; soprano, ensemble)
- Lalishri (2006; violin, strings)
- The Beautiful Names (2007; tenor, choir, orchestra)
(2007; cello, soprano, tenor, orchestra, choir)
- Towards Silence (2007; four string quartets, large Tibetan temple bowl)
- Tu ne sais pas (2007; mezzo-soprano, timpani, strings)
- Popule Meus (2009; cello, timpani, strings)
|Career Highlights: |
- 1968 The Whale premiered by the London Sinfonietta and subsequently recorded on The Beatles’ Apple label
- 1973 Thérèse commissioned by Royal Opera House, London
- 1989 premiere of The Protecting Veil at the Proms in London
- 2000 receives a knighthood in Millennium Honours List
- 2003 premiere of the all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple
- 2005 provides music for Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuaron
- 2005 Receives Ivor Novello Classical Music Award
- 2007 HRH Prince of Wales commissions The Beautiful Names, a setting of the 99 Names for Allah from the Qu’ran
Critical Acclaim: If you had to pick the soundtrack for heaven, the music of Sir John Tavener would probably feature prominently. — Aidan Goldstraw, Express and Star After music like this, applause seems superfluous… — Laurence Hughes, The Independent
John Tavener first came to public attention in 1968 with the premiere of his oratorio The Whale at the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta. The Beatles subsequently recorded this on their Apple label. Although Tavener’s avant-garde style of the seventies contrasts with the contemplative beauty of his works for which he is best known, the seeds of the language he would later adopt were in evidence from an early stage. Some of his first published compositions, notably Thérèse (1973) commissioned by the Royal Opera House and A Gentle Spirit (1977) after the short story by Dostoyevsky, showed that spirituality and mysticism were to be his primary sources of inspiration. His conversion to the Orthodox Church in 1977 resulted from his growing conviction that Eastern traditions retained a primordial essence that the west had lost. Works such as The Lamb (1982), and the large-scale choral work Resurrection (1989) date from this period. It was in 1989 that Tavener once again came firmly into the limelight, when the Proms premiere of The Protecting Veil introduced his music to a new audience. The opera Mary of Egypt, premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1992. The same year, a major documentary, ‘Glimpses of Paradise’ was broadcast on BBC2. His 50th birthday year was marked in 1994 by the BBC’s Ikons Festival, as well as another major Proms commission - The Apocalypse. In 1997, the performance of Song for Athene at the close of Princess Diana’s funeral showed that the profound effect of his music reached far beyond just the concert-going public. The premiere of A New Beginning played out the final minutes of 1999 in London’s Millennium Dome; on 4 January 2000, Fall and Resurrection was premiered at St Paul’s Cathedral, broadcast on both television and radio; he received a Knighthood in the Millennium Honours List, and later the same year, London’s South Bank Centre presented a major festival of his music. The number of commissions from overseas increased, notably with Lamentations and Praises (2000) for the San Francisco-based Chanticleer (whose recording of the work secured for Tavener the Grammy award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 2003) and Ikon of Eros (2001) for the Minnesota Orchestra. In the first years of the new millennium, Tavener was led to look for inspiration from alternative sources by his interest in the universalist philosophy of the late Swiss metaphysician Fritjhof Schuon, which embraces all great religious traditions. This change in direction is manifest in works written since 2001, such as the epic all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple (2002) which includes Sufi poetry as well as Christian, Islamic and Hindu texts; The Beautiful Names (2006) sets the 99 names for Allah from the Qu’ran; the Requiem (2007) also sets words from the Qu’ran and the Upanishads alongside those of the Roman Catholic requiem mass; and the Hindu inspired Lalishri (2006) for solo violin and strings, written for Nicola Benedetti. More recently he has written Popule Meus (2009) – a work for solo cello and strings described by the composer as a meditation on the Judaic and Christian text “O my People, what have I done to you?”. The music of John Tavener is published exclusively by Chester Music Ltd.
David McCleery / Chester Music
- Pull Out All The Stops
- Southbank Centre has commissioned new works by Music Sales composers Maxwell Davies, Tavener, Saariaho and others in a celebration of the restoration and 60th anniversary of the Royal Festival Hall Organ.
From March 18 to April 14 2014, Southbank Centre are delighted to be hosting the month-long Pull Out All The Stops Festival – An Organ Celebration which will involve performances and premieres to herald the anticipated arrival of the new organ.
Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director Judy Kelly says…
‘We want to share our passion for the organ and have commissioned new work from eight artists from very different fields: from revered composers such as Kaija Saariaho and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to visual artist/composer Martin Creed…We hope that this new repertoire will have a life beyond this very special moment.’
The opening gala concert on March 18 2014 will feature the premiere of new work Monument to Beethoven by Tavener and close with the world premiere performance of a piece for organ, brass and youth choir by Maxwell Davies. Succeeding this will be an array of co-commissions and more premieres making this year an exciting one for some of the leading composers of today.
Southbank Centre has commissioned the following for the upcoming organ festival:
March 30 2014
Work to be announced
April 24 2014
The Wild Reeds (London Premiere)
Thomas Trotter, organ
June 26 2014
Work to be announced (UK Premiere - Philharmonia Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor)
Co-commission with Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and Orchestre National de Lyon
Work to be announced
Joint commission with the Royal College of Organists
Work to be announced
Co-commission with Los Angeles Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
More details including the full-line up for the festival will be announced in April with sales bookings opening on April 26 for Southbank Centre Members and April 29 for general. For further information, please see the Southbank Centre press release.
- John Tavener at Manchester International Festival on July 7
- In 2014 John Tavener will celebrate his seventieth birthday. The celebrations begin early with a feature at this year’s Manchester International Festival in July.
Inspired by the great religious traditions, Tavener’s music is celebrated for its enduring beauty and deeply spiritual outlook. His music has connected with audiences around the world on a profoundly emotional level, and has brought him commercial and critical acclaim rarely enjoyed by living composers.
The evening will include three world premieres. The Love Duet from ‘Krishna’ - Tavener’s as yet unperformed opera - sung by John Mark Ainsley, which has been described by the composer as ‘the most ecstatic music that I have ever written’. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is Tavener’s recent exploration into the work of Tolstoy, performed by cellist Steven Isserlis with bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu.
Through MIF Creative, Tavener will also be working directly with the faiths that have influenced him; If Ye Love Me is a new piece for the MIF Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, formed from faith communities across Greater Manchester working together to explore the beauty and power of voices raised in praise.
The choir will also perform Tavener’s Mahamatar, set to Werner Herzog’s film Pilgrimage, alongside special guest Abida Parveen. Completing the evening is a rare performance of In Alium, Tavener’s radical Proms commission from 1968.
MANCHESTER INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
An evening of new and rarely performed work with the BBC Philharmonic and special guest Abida Parveen
Sunday July 7, 7.30pm
Love Duet from 'Krishna' World premiere
The Death of Ivan Ilyich World premiere
If ye love me World premiere
Steven Isserlis cello
John Mark Ainsley tenor
Jonathan Lemalu bass-baritone
Elin Manahan Thomas soprano
Abida Parveen special guest
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
MIF Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir
Beth Allen choir director
Tecwyn Evans conductor