Sir John Tavener, photographed in 2007John Tavener, (January 28, 1944–November 12, 2013), composer.

John Tavener was born in London and quickly established himself as a child prodigy, serving as a church organist and conductor while still in his teens. He studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music. After an early work, he was befriended by the Beatles, who arranged for some of his earliest works to be recorded and sold on their Apple record label.

Although his music had a mystical quality from the beginning, this aspect became even more pronounced after his conversion to the Orthodox Church in the 1970’s. Although the term was sometimes used derisively, he was often referred to, along with composers Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki, as a “Holy Minimalist”. His haunting melodies and austere textures created a sonic space for meditation, reflection, and devotion. As he once stated, “I think there are an awful lot of artists around who are very good at leading us into hell. I would rather someone would show me the way to paradise.”

Some of his best-known works include his early oratorio, “The Whale,” “Celtic Requiem,” “The Protecting Veil,” a best-selling concerto for cello and strings based on the Virgin Mary; a Christmas carol, “The Lamb,” (based on the poem by William Blake), and his Song For Athene (Song Of Angels),” which was sung at the funeral of Princess Diana.

Although he remained a devoted Orthodox member, in his later years he felt somewhat constrained musically by Orthodox tradition and began to incorporate musical and textual elements from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, as well as works of literature, especially Tolstoy. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and received Britain’s prestigious Ivor Novello Award, as well as 2 Grammys. He also published an autobiography, The Music Of Silence in 2000.

At the time of his death, Tavener had been planning performances and observances of his upcoming 70th birthday in January 2014. He had suffered from a variety of health problems for years, including a stroke, heart attacks, and Marfan Syndrome. He is survived by his wife and three children.

“I hope that my music resembles ‘icons in sound’, insofar as I see music as ‘a window of sound’ on to the divine world.”

Visit the official John Tavener website here.

Advertisements