John Tavener

I'm going to confess: it took me until the 2000s to realise that John Tavener and John Taverner were different composers, separated by about 500 years! Don't make my mistake: one was an early Tudor, fairly conventional, choral composer; the other was a significant 20th century composer of weird, wonderful, mystical music. The pronunciations of their names are pretty much identical, however, and without any context, it's easy to mistake the one for the other in polite conversation. It's why you will hear me talking of "Táv-un-uh" and "Tav-vérrrn-uh", with ludicrous over-emphasis on the second syllable for the Tudor one, to make the distinction clear. Best to avoid me at drinks parties, probably.

Anyway: John Kenneth Tavener was born in Wembley, London in 1944, just as the second world war was inching to its conclusion, give or take a year or so. His middle name is seldom used and is thus dispensed with for cataloguing purposes hereabouts. His father was an organist in a local church and he studied at the Royal Academy of Music from 1962, where one of his tutors was Lennox Berkeley. In 1977, he converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose musical culture he thereafter absorbed into his own musical language. Thus, his works often incorporate repetitive chanting and drone-like themes, which created a meditative and contemplative atmosphere. That said, he was once reported to have complained, "I reached a point where everything I wrote was terribly austere and hidebound by the tonal system of the Orthodox Church, and I felt the need, in my music at least, to become more universalist: to take in other colors, other languages." He thus embarked on an exploration of Islam and Hinduism cultures, whilst nevertheless remaining "essentially Orthodox" (his words).

His most "famous" piece is probably Song for Athene, because it was played at the funeral of Princess Diana. His output is not, however, huge and seems (to this listener, at least) fairly homogenous in style: inflected with religious-like chant, rich choral harmonies and a clearly-evident deep spirituality.

He died in 2013, at the relatively young age of 69, in Devon.

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Music Plays from my collection
(since January 9th 2021)

Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLengthPlay Count
Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLengthPlay Count