|Sir John Tavener with the choir of Clare College, Cambridge|
Saddened to hear of the death today of Sir John Tavener at the age of 69 after many years of illness. A composer of great talent and integrity even if some of his later work is a tad dark and Byzantine for even my tastes.
He was one of the country’s most celebrated contemporary composers and in the late 1960s signed to The Beatles’ record label Apple. His music publishers said he died “peacefully at home” in Child Okeford, Dorset, earlier today. In a somewhat historic coincidence and cause of confusion he shared his name with an English compose, John Taverner (c. 1490 – 18 October 1545) was an English composer and organist, regarded as one of the most important English composers of his era.
He had suffered ill health for much of his life, including a heart attack in 2007 that caused him to spend four months in intensive care. He had a stroke in 1979, and in 1990 was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a hereditary condition that can cause heart defects.
In 1992, The Protecting Veil topped the classical charts for several months and in 1997 his Song For Athene was played at the funeral of Princess Diana. His other well-known works included A New Beginning, which was chosen to see in the new century at the end of 1999 in the Millennium Dome in London, The Whale and The Veil of the Temple.
James Rushton, managing director publisher Chester Music, described him as “one of the unique and most inspired voices in music of the last 50 years”. “His large body of work… is one of the most significant contributions to classical music in our times,” he said.”For all of those fortunate enough to have known him, John was a man of strong beliefs, huge personal warmth, loyalty and humour. He will be much missed.”
In paradisum deducant angeli;
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyrus
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Sir John Tavener – 1944 – 12 November 2013
“Song for Athene is another elegiac tribute, not, to the mythological goddess Athene, but to a young family friend, Athene Hariades, half Greek, a talented actress who was tragically killed in a cycling accident. “Her beauty,” write Tavener, “both outward and inner, was reflected in her love of acting, poetry, music and of the Orthodox Church.” Tavener had heard Athene reading Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey and, rather as in the case of the Little Requiem, conceived the piece after her funeral, lighting on the effective ideas, so touchingly realized, of combining words from the Orthodox liturgy with lines from Hamlet. Between each is a monodic “Alleluia”, and, following the example of traditional Byzantine music, the whole piece unfolds over a continuous “ison” or drone.