Sir John Kenneth Tavener
Tavener, Sir John Kenneth (tăvˈənər, –nə) [key], 1944–, English composer, b. London; studied Royal Academy of Music; widely considered Great Britain's most popular living classical composer. Since his early efforts in the 1960s his work has shown a consistent but evolving tonal or modal style and often a marked simplicity and spirituality. Tavener, who joined the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977, is known principally for his requiems, canticles, hymns, and liturgical cantatas, which he has called "icons with notes rather than colors." Largely slow-moving, intense, and accessible to a wide audience, his music has been influenced by various traditional styles including Indian ragas, Byzantine chants, Middle Eastern works, and Native American music. Tavener's compositions also have close ties to Eastern European minimalism and are part of a mystical strain that also marks the work of such composers as Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, and Giya Kancheli.
Tavener first came to wide public attention with his composition The Whale (1968), which employs a collage of prerecorded tape, amplified percussion, and chorus. After a comparatively dry period in the 1970s, Tavener's work flourished during the 1980s and 90s, when he produced a broad range of compositions. Among his best-known works are Orthodox Vigil Service (1984), for chorus and handbells; The Protecting Veil, for cello, and Akathist of Thanksgiving, for soloists, chorus, strings, and timpini, (both: 1987); the operatic Mary of Egypt (1991); the choral Song for Athene (1993), played at the funeral of Princess Diana; and Total Eclipse (1999), a cantata scored for vocal soloists, boys' choir, baroque instruments, brass, Tibetan bowls, and timpani. The Veil of the Temple (2003) is a seven-hour musical vigil that draws on Christian traditions of the East and West and is performed by a large chorus, vocal soloists, organ, brass and percussion ensembles, Tibetan horn, temple bowls, and Indian harmonium. Tavener was knighted in 2000.
See his The Music of Silence—A Composer's Testament (2000); Glimpses of Paradise (documentary film dir. by G. Haydon, 1992); G. Haydon, John Tavener—Glimpses of Paradise (1995).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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