Sir John Tavener (born 28 January 1944) is a Britishcomposer, best known for such religious, minimal works as "The whale", and "Ikos". He began as prodigy; he was described by the Guardian as "the musical discovery of the year", while the Times said he was "among the very best creative talents of his generation." Tavener was knighted in 2000 for his services to music. He has won an Ivor Novello Award.
It has been reported, particularly in the British press, that Tavener left Orthodox Christianity to explore a number of other different religious traditions, including Hinduism and Islam, and became a follower of the mystic philosopher Frithjof Schuon. While he has in recent years incorporated elements of non-Western music into his compositions, Tavener remains an Orthodox Christian, although his brother, Roger, tended towards Sufi. In 2003 he composed the exceptionally large work The Veil of the Temple (which was premiered at the Temple Church, Fleet Street, London), based on texts from a number of religions. It is set for four choirs, several orchestras and soloists and lasts at least seven hours. The 2004 premiere of his piece Prayer of the Heart written for and performed by Björk, was featured on CD and incorporated as the soundtrack to Jake Lever's powerful installation Centre + Circumference (2008, Wallspace, All Hallows on the Wall, City of London).
In the second television series of Sacred Music, broadcast in the UK on BBC Four on Friday 2 April 2010, Tavener described himself as "essentially Orthodox".
While Tavener's early music was influenced by Igor Stravinsky, often invoking the sound world of the Requiem Canticles and A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer, his recent music is more sparse, uses wide registral space and is usually diatonicallytonal. Some commentators see a similarity with the works of Arvo Pärt, from their common religious tradition to the technical details of phrase lengths, diatonicism and colouristic percussion effects, though the similarities between their outputs are quite superficial. Olivier Messiaen has also been suggested as a strong influence on his earlier work.
Tavener has suffered from considerable problems with his health. He had a stroke in his thirties, heart surgery and a tumor removed in his forties, and suffered two successive heart attacks which have left him very frail and unable to work since December 2007. He has Marfan syndrome. His wife, Maryanna, broadcast a charity appeal on BBC Radio 4 in October 2008 on behalf of the Marfan Trust.
2008 - World premier of "the anthem" sung in St Paul's Cathedral in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
March 2009 - The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia presents the world premiere of Tu ne sais pas, a work for mezzo-soprano, timpani, and strings. Katherine Pracht will sing the texts, which are drawn from poems by French poet Jean Biès, (one of the work's dedicatees), and from Islamic and Hindu sources.
The Whale (1966; soloists, speaker, SATB choir, children's choir, orchestra)
^ David Mason. "Greene's biographical encyclopedia of composers". Doubleday, 1995. 31. ISBN 0-3851-4278-1
^ See p. 30 of Morrison, Richard (November 2004). "99 Names for God: John Tavener Turns his Back on Orthodoxy". BBC Music. Tavener is quoted as saying, "It strikes me now that all religions are as senile as one another."