Author Topic: Sir John Tavener(1944-)  (Read 2936 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« on: June 01, 2009, 03:10:19 PM »
I have just finished listening to the new EMI cd of Tavener's Requiem commissioned by Liverpool as part of the 2008 European Capital of Culture programme and recorded in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

It is a beautiful work and of manageable duration(35 minutes long) compared to some of Tavener's big choral works.

I wondered what others make of Tavener's brand of 'Holy Minimalism plus'?

I have a number of the choral compositions- the 'Akhmatova Requiem', 'The Akathist of Thanksgiving', 'We Shall See Him As He Is', 'Fall and Resurrection', 'Theophany'-and each in its way is both impressively grand and meltingly beautiful and moving.....and yet sometimes I doubt how much of the obvious sincerity of Tavener's vision actually translates into music which will survive. And equally I find a sameness about the music which, frankly, makes it difficult for me to actually distinguish one of these works from another. It is a bit like listening to a Hovhaness symphony-extremely pleasant at the time but I don't hurry back to it. That is very unfair on Tavener perhaps?

There does not seem to have been much discussion of Tavener on this board to date. Incidentally, I understand that his fragile health is giving cause for grave concern :(

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2009, 04:33:13 PM »
I too find him to be somewhat repetitive, though enjoyable. His mature output is stylistically uneven; from tuneful and poppish pieces like the Magnificat, to self-consciously mystical (I feel, anyway) works such as Angels which uncomfortably fuse minimalism with the inherent repetition in plainchant, to dirges such as Canticle of the Mother God which almost remind me of Stravinsky's Threni. It's difficult not to enjoy a short Tavener choral piece - the large-scale "statements" are less endearing - and I must remind myself that he was producing this music some time before it became as horribly common as it now is, and he does have an original voice - but not that much creativity, it seems...
« Last Edit: June 01, 2009, 04:35:20 PM by Lethe »
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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2009, 10:37:50 PM »
In my collection, their are diverging channels (a "channel" is any massive length of cds in a row) that come together in the corner of the far wall that I call, What happened in the 80s?

To get Part and Tavener's SQs on one disc (Virgin?) in total church reverb glory is to...ok, no pontificating. I love these composers only if I listen to this one cd for the both of them. It may sound harsh, but that makes this cd that much more unique in the library.

SQ 1 (title?), is, for me, fairly unique to me as an SQ. Taken out of context,...well, no, I'm just going to have to say "most beautiful music ever" category, including clingy bells that evoke a powerfully Eastern ritual religious atmosphere for 20min. You would not be criticized for "using" this music as a balm. Gurdjieff+Feldman-Satoh?

SQ 2 (title?) is three times as ascetic sounding, in the Byzantine manner, the music's beautiful harshness blooming in the acoustics. At 30min., it may be long, but since you're doing something else, you just let it go on. Feldman minus late modal Xenakis.

With the two Part "statues", this I think is a great "definition" cd. I don't know how for "real" Tavener is, and I resisted this album as a crossover dream, which it is, but for the purposes it serves (healing, meditation) and for the genius of such simple music, I rate this instrumental music (by 2 mostly vocal composers) very highly as a response to the death of the Tower of Babel of High Modernism in the 70s, from which these two composers emerged with a heralding new, original, and ultimately inevitable style...Satoh in Japan...Feldman always (though in the 80s even more)...almost a suspension of time philosophical style. True, it can go bad quick, but if I pretend, this album is the perfect one-stop-shop-and-save. Of course the sound.

Offline Guido

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2009, 12:11:31 AM »
Nothing I've heard by Tavener has matched The Protecting Veil for me... There are some lovely choir miniatures - The Lamb for instance and Tiger, Tiger burning Bright, and the beautiful lament Svyati for cello and choir. But I agree, his output is very uneven and I find it too frustrating to go through it all to find the rare gems. He is not on the level of Arvo Part.
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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2009, 12:20:05 AM »
I'd add that Isserlis Protecting Veil w/Britten solo No.3 to the SQs:
2 Virgins for John of Minimalantis!!!

Offline Christo

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2009, 01:07:32 AM »
.....and yet sometimes I doubt how much of the obvious sincerity of Tavener's vision actually translates into music which will survive. And equally I find a sameness about the music which, frankly, makes it difficult for me to actually distinguish one of these works from another. It is a bit like listening to a Hovhaness symphony-extremely pleasant at the time but I don't hurry back to it.

Well said. Or to put it simpler: very much my own reservation with Tavener. I love some of his choral pieces, especially the Lament for Jerusalem. Yet, I cannot get over the feeling that he's somehow just the spiritual brother of Lennon and McCarthy, that's to say: hardly literate.  8) Read one of his biographies and concluded that he's a, an ... , well, as stated.  $:) Not at all comparable with Arvo Pärt, after all.  0:)



 
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ChamberNut

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2009, 01:12:21 PM »
I've just finished listening today to Tavener's The Protecting Veil and The Last Sleep of The Virgin.  I have to say that I was not very excited by these works.  There were some fine moments, but overall it felt very monotonous, almost like I was at the dentist or at a spa and a soothing background Muzak track was playing.   :-\  Sorry to the Tavener fans, but that was my initial reaction.

This was first exposure to Tavener.


Offline Guido

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2009, 01:30:37 PM »
I've just finished listening today to Tavener's The Protecting Veil and The Last Sleep of The Virgin.  I have to say that I was not very excited by these works.  There were some fine moments, but overall it felt very monotonous, almost like I was at the dentist or at a spa and a soothing background Muzak track was playing.   :-\  Sorry to the Tavener fans, but that was my initial reaction.

This was first exposure to Tavener.



The Protecting Veil is a very great work... keep trying with it. Which recording do you have?
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2009, 04:06:36 PM »
I've just finished listening today to Tavener's The Protecting Veil and The Last Sleep of The Virgin.  I have to say that I was not very excited by these works.  There were some fine moments, but overall it felt very monotonous, almost like I was at the dentist or at a spa and a soothing background Muzak track was playing.   :-\  Sorry to the Tavener fans, but that was my initial reaction.

This was first exposure to Tavener.

This is a problem with this style of music - how to distinguish sincere creations from cynical, or even from flippant. I agree with Guido that the Protecting Veil is impressive, and while not radical, rather poignant in its sound-world. Wish I knew it better to be able to describe why, though.
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snyprrr

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2009, 11:41:04 AM »
Yes, when I hear "pretty" music like this, my Crap-O-Meter just doesn't function correctly. I too, have a hard time between "sincere" and "cynical".

However, "lovely spa music" is the "function" that I would use this music for, anyway: just a longish piece for the background whilst I exercise. And, it's "prettier" than Feldman (debatable), but, at least, mercifully, shorter.

However, Tavener's chest hair does beg the sincerity question!

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2009, 12:42:25 AM »
I have just finished listening to the new EMI cd of Tavener's Requiem commissioned by Liverpool as part of the 2008 European Capital of Culture programme and recorded in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

It is a beautiful work and of manageable duration(35 minutes long) compared to some of Tavener's big choral works.

I wondered what others make of Tavener's brand of 'Holy Minimalism plus'?

I have a number of the choral compositions- the 'Akhmatova Requiem', 'The Akathist of Thanksgiving', 'We Shall See Him As He Is', 'Fall and Resurrection', 'Theophany'-and each in its way is both impressively grand and meltingly beautiful and moving.....and yet sometimes I doubt how much of the obvious sincerity of Tavener's vision actually translates into music which will survive. And equally I find a sameness about the music which, frankly, makes it difficult for me to actually distinguish one of these works from another. It is a bit like listening to a Hovhaness symphony-extremely pleasant at the time but I don't hurry back to it. That is very unfair on Tavener perhaps?

There does not seem to have been much discussion of Tavener on this board to date. Incidentally, I understand that his fragile health is giving cause for grave concern :(

Very much agree with your verdict Colin - beautifulmusic that I don't often rush back to. In some ways I prefer earlier works like 'The Whale' and the 'Celtic Requiem' - the whale is fun and I love the opening which had WW2 newsreader Alvar Lidell reading the Encyclopedia Britannica entry about whales as the orchestra makes various lumbering whale-like sounds - great stuff.  I attended a live performance decades ago at the Festival Hall - part of a featival of British Music. Tavener happily signed my programme for me.  Sorry to hear that he is in fragile health. Certainly a composer worth exploring and thanks for raising him Colin.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

karlhenning

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Re: Sir John Tavener (1944-)
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2009, 06:00:47 AM »
Well said. Or to put it simpler: very much my own reservation with Tavener. I love some of his choral pieces, especially the Lament for Jerusalem. Yet, I cannot get over the feeling that he's somehow just the spiritual brother of Lennon and McCarthy, that's to say: hardly literate.  8) Read one of his biographies and concluded that he's a, an ... , well, as stated.  $:) Not at all comparable with Arvo Pärt, after all.  0:)

I should put you in touch with a colleague who studied with Tavener (and who very much likes Pärt, IIRC).  As another data-point, I mean  8)

karlhenning

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Re: Sir John Tavener (1944-)
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2009, 06:24:10 AM »
I like The Protecting Veil very well.  In the St Paul's (Boston) choir, we sang a short setting of some Blake text or other (maybe "The Lamb"?) for which I was not mad.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2011, 07:38:09 PM »
He is not on the level of Arvo Part.

No, he's nowhere even near Arvo Part. They're not even in the same building. I've heard quite a few Tavener's works: The Protecting Veil, Requiem, a few others, I wasn't impressed at all with the music. His orchestration of The Protecting Veil was absolutely hideous. I think even Liszt is a better orchestrator than Tavener! ;D
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Offline Luke

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2011, 04:21:21 AM »
No, he's nowhere even near Arvo Part. They're not even in the same building. I've heard quite a few Tavener's works: The Protecting Veil, Requiem, a few others, I wasn't impressed at all with the music. His orchestration of The Protecting Veil was absolutely hideous. I think even Liszt is a better orchestrator than Tavener! ;D

Agree, of course, that he's no Part, but he's not that bad - you just have to be choosy. Some of his works are perfect, in their own way - perfect here meaning 'every note is right and couldn't be altered, added to or extracted' and not meaning some synonym for 'wonderful gorgeous, great...'. That Lamb is one of these, it's a little classic, and some of his other choral works, the shorter ones, fall into this bracket too. The Tavener disc I return to most frequently is the Eternity's Sunrise on with Manze on Harmonia Mundi. It includes a good cross-section of his music, all very fine pieces and with a thread holding them together. The title piece and the Song of the Angel are among his finest minatures, and the earlyish (and serial) Sappho Fragments are really lyrically beautiful, reminding me of Dallapiccola's settings of the same poet. Other pieces euqally fine.

As for The Protecting Veil, I can't see a weakness in the scoring - it's very well scored, in fact, in the same schematic sort of way Part uses but with a greater appreciation for the idiosyncrasies of string tone. That's not a criticism of Part, btw, just an observation that his lines, like Bach's, are conceived of as notes first and timbre second, hence the many possible versions of Fratres, for example; this isn't quite so true for Tavener, and in The Protecting Veil the specific features of the strings are extremely well employed I think.

The Celtic Requiem and The Whale are great fun! - someone was mentioning them earlier. I've had the score to those two (plus a few other Tavener pieces, Protectivng Veil, In Alium...) for years and they are wonderfully original conceptions. I like spotting Ringo Star in the recording of The Whale - he's the one who goes '...and cause suffocation'!  ;D

Offline Luke

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Re: Sir John Tavener(1944-)
« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2011, 04:23:08 AM »
Oh, and btw, by the time he got into the swing of things, Liszt wasn't quite the poor orchestrator some make out either. There are some fabulous touches in some of those pieces of his...