The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

November 12, 2016

November 12, 2013

For the composer John Tavener (January 28, 1944 to November 12, 2013), according to his Guardian obituary:

[C]reativity sprang from religious faith. Many of his works held an appeal for audiences that did not necessarily identify with contemporary music or the theological values from which he started. However, their response meant a great deal to him: he took their engagement as an affirmation that his music was operating on a spiritual level.

It took until halfway through Tavener's career for him to receive substantial recognition. This came with The Protecting Veil (1989), the "icon in sound" for cello and strings inspired by the Mother of God and premiered at the BBC Proms by Steven Isserlis. ... Five years later, Tavener achieved global celebrity when his Song for Athene (1993) closed the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales, televised from Westminster Abbey.
....the year 2000 brought Tavener a knighthood, a festival of his music at the Southbank Centre, London, and the first performance of Fall and Resurrection, exploring the characteristic themes of the end of the world and paradise. Tavener's use of instruments such as the ram's horns, nay flute and kaval (both forms of folk flute) saw him pushing the boundaries of his vision ever closer to the east and to eastern religions, another characteristic impulse.

The work was dedicated to the Prince of Wales, with whom Tavener formed a lasting friendship. Prince Charles became a generous supporter of his music....

..... In a letter to the Times after the atrocity [of 9/11] , Tavener urged world leaders to read the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi, whose saying "sell cleverness, buy wonder" reflected what he was trying to achieve with his music.

Tavener was born in Wembley Park, north-west London, the elder of two sons. His Presbyterian parents, Kenneth and Muriel, who ran a family building firm, gave him a religious upbringing and nurtured his musical talents. He began composing and studying the piano at an early age, and gained a music scholarship to Highgate school, north London.

Two early encounters had a profound effect: a performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute – for Tavener the only opera that transcended western tradition – at Glyndebourne, and Stravinsky's Canticum Sacrum. He studied for a time with the pianist Solomon, and entered the Royal Academy of Music. Stage nerves deterred him from performance, and he was encouraged as a composer by Lennox Berkeley. ...

Benjamin Britten heard Celtic Requiem, and his recommendation to the Royal Opera brought Tavener an opera commission. His first idea, of turning Jean Genet's novel Notre Dame des Fleurs into an electronic opera, would have been as innovative as it was controversial. But Peter Hall, then production director at Covent Garden, was not impressed.

Tavener's fascination with Roman Catholicism had resulted in several works from the late 1960s and early 70s, notably the 50-minute, large-scale choral meditation on texts by the 16th-century Spanish mystic St John of the Cross – Ultimos Ritos (Last Rites, 1974). St John's metaphysical concept of "dying to oneself" registered strongly with Tavener. ....

Tavener's marriage to the Greek dancer Victoria Maragopoulou in 1974 lasted only a few months. Tavener's inability to sustain the relationship affected him deeply, and the chamber opera A Gentle Spirit (1977), another collaboration with McLarnon, based on a story by Dostoevsky, deals with a marriage that fails to the extent of a pawnbroker's wife taking her own life. .... Moreover, it touched upon Russian orthodoxy, to which McLarnon had been a convert for several years....Tavener also converted to the Russian Orthodox church, which he said filled him with a sense of "homecoming".

In 1990 Tavener was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a hereditary condition affecting the connective tissue, and he remained in a critical condition for some time after an operation. Nonetheless, he continued work on
The Apocalypse, a massive work for soloists, chorus and orchestra, which at one time he thought might be his last.

The following year he married Maryanna Schaefer, and they moved to Sussex. This was the first time Tavener had moved in his life, having previously remained in the house where he was born. Greece, too, became an increasingly important refuge and a haven for composing. He returned to opera again with Mary of Egypt (1992), which met with some success at its Aldeburgh premiere.

In later years, once he had acquired a broadly based audience, his universalist focus continued to result in wonderful works...

Days before the premiere of Sollemnitas, he suffered a heart attack while attending rehearsals in Zurich. He spent months in intensive care in a London hospital, during which time his brother died of a heart attack, and it took till 2011 for larger works to begin to flow again, among them the monodrama
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (2012). ...

Tavener was renowned for his passion for cars: a newspaper once described him as "the mystic who drives a Rolls-Royce". ...

No comments: