Five anthems capturing some of the most memorable moments of John Tavener’s all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple.
Conceived as a journey from darkness to light, The Veil of the Temple was premiered in the Temple Church, London, in 2003. The five anthems are the seminal moments from the piece, and range from the breathtakingly simple Mother of God, Here I Stand and the quietly ecstatic Awed by the Beauty, to the sonorous You Mantle Yourself In Light, the contemplative What God Is We Do Not Know and the radiant O Mary Theotokos.
‘From first to last the piece was mesmerising…this is definitely Tavener’s masterpiece’ – The Times ‘John Tavener has brought into being a uniquely significant choral work of immense cumulative power: a glorious, transcendent achievement’ – The Independent ‘At the end, in a marvellous coup de théâtre, the choir led us out into the dawn to a joyful chant from the Hindu scriptures. As I emerged, dazed and elated, I felt that I had just witnessed Tavener’s masterpiece’ – Daily Telegraph
A prodigious talent, Tavener exploded onto the classical music scene in 1968, when he premiered no fewer than six works, including his oratorio The Whale – subsequently recorded on The Beatles’ Apple label. The Guardian called him ‘the musical discovery of the year’; The Times ‘among the very best creative talents of his generation.’
A year later, still only in his mid-twenties, he was installed at Trinity College as Professor of Composition. The avant-garde style of his early work was gradually replaced by works of intense, contemplative beauty – a deeply intuitive, heart-centred approach to composition being compounded by his conversion to the Orthodox Church in 1977.
While his religious sensibilities are more universalist now, his work remains intensely spiritual, other-worldly, transcendent, essential. He is a dissenting voice in what he sees as a modernist wilderness, which has meant his ‘religious’ work has not always been well received, critically. But there is no doubting his popularity with the music-buying public. The Protecting Veil – his haunting concerto for solo cello and strings – is one of the best-selling classical recordings of all time.
But he is perhaps most widely known outside of classical music circles for the beautiful Song for Athene (which actually made the pop charts after it was played at Princess Diana’s funeral). It was a John Tavener composition, A New Beginning, that played out the final minutes of 1999 in London’s Millennium Dome.
Among others, he has been honoured with numerous TV specials, festivals dedicated to his music, a Grammy, and a Knighthood, extending his reputation around the world. Recently, he has completed a choral work, Elizabeth Full of Grace, commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales, and made his first foray into the world of dance, collaborating with leading choreographer Wayne McGregor and his company Random Dance.
He has completed a large-scale choral work The Beautiful Names, celebrating the ninety-nine names of Allah, Lalishri, a work for solo violin and strings written for Nicola Benedetti, and a Requiem premiered in 2008 in Liverpool for the city’s European Capital of Culture celebrations.