This year marks the 80th anniversary of birth.
Sir John Kenneth Tavener (28 January 1944 – 12 November 2013) was an English composer, known for his extensive output of religious works, including The Protecting Veil, Song for Athene and The Lamb.


Sir John Kenneth Tavener (28 January 1944 – 12 November 2013) was an English composer, known for his extensive output of religious works, including The Protecting Veil, Song for Athene and The Lamb.

Tavener first came to prominence with his cantata The Whale, premiered in 1968. Then aged 24, 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." During his career he became one of the best known and popular composers of his generation, most particularly for The Protecting Veil, which as recorded by cellist Steven Isserlis became a bestselling album, and Song for Athene which was sung at the funeral of Princess Diana. The Lamb featured in the soundtrack for Paolo Sorrentino's film The Great Beauty. Tavener was knighted in 2000 for his services to music and won an Ivor Novello Award.

Personal life

In 1974 he married the Greek dancer Victoria Maragopoulou, but it only lasted eight months. In 1991 he married Maryanna Schaefer with whom he had three children, Theodora, Sofia and Orlando. He suffered from considerable health problems throughout his life. He had a stroke in his thirties, heart surgery and the removal of a tumour in his forties, and suffered two successive heart attacks which left him very frail. He was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome in 1990. Lady Tavener broadcast a charity appeal on BBC Radio 4 in October 2008 on behalf of the Marfan Trust.

Tavener had an interest in classic cars, owning an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, a Jaguar XJ6 and a Bentley Mulsanne Turbo.


Tavener died, aged 69, on 12 November 2013 at his home in Child Okeford, Dorset. In the music world, composers John Rutter and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, cellist Steven Isserlis, Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Roger Wright, controller of BBC Radio 3 and director of the Proms, and soprano Patricia Rozario, paid tribute. A tribute was also received from Charles, Prince of Wales. Tavener's funeral was held at the Anglican Cathedral in Winchester on 28 November 2013. The service was Orthodox, and presided over by Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the most senior Orthodox bishop currently in the UK. Some 700 mourners attended.


John Rutter describes Tavener as having the "very rare gift" of being able to "bring an audience to a deep silence." According to Steven Isserlis, "he had his own voice. He wasn't writing to be popular – he was writing the music he had to write."

Style and development

While Tavener's earliest music was influenced by Igor Stravinsky and Olivier Messiaen – often invoking the sound world of Stravinsky, in particular Canticum Sacrum, and the ecstatic quality found in various works by Messiaen – his later music became more sparse, using wide registral space and was usually diatonically tonal. Tavener recognised Arvo Pärt as "a kindred spirit" and shared with him a common religious tradition and a fondness for textural transparency.

Career highlights

  • 1968 – The Whale premiered by the London Sinfonietta and subsequently recorded on The Beatles' Apple label.
  • 1971 – A Celtic Requiem recorded by Apple.
  • 1973 – Thérèse, the story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, commissioned by the Royal Opera, London.
  • 1989 – premiere of The Protecting Veil at the Proms in London.
  • 2000 – premiere of Fall and Resurrection in St Paul's Cathedral, London (4 January 2000).
  • 2000 – received a knighthood in the Millennium Honours List.
  • 2001 – composed the soundtrack of Werner Herzog's short documentary Pilgrimage.
  • 2003 – premiere of the all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple by the Holst Singers and the Choir of the Temple Church at the Temple Church, London.
  • 2005 – premiere of Laila (Amu), Tavener's first dance collaboration, with Random Dance company and Wayne McGregor's choreography.
  • 2006 – contributed Fragments of a Prayer to the Alfonso Cuarón film Children of Men.
  • 2007 – premiere of The Beautiful Names by the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra at Westminster Cathedral. The work, sung in Arabic, is a setting of the 99 names of Allah found in the Qur'an. Awarded honorary degree by the University of Winchester.
  • 2008 – world premiere of "the anthem" sung in St Paul's Cathedral in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • March 2009 – The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia presents the world première of Tu ne sais pas, a work for mezzo-soprano, timpani and strings. Katherine Pracht sung the texts, which are drawn from poems by French poet Jean Biès (one of the work's dedicatees) and from Islamic and Hindu sources.
  • 2011 – Tavener's piece "Funeral Canticle" from the album Eternity's Sunrise recorded by the Academy of Ancient Music was used multiple times in Terrence Malick's film The Tree of Life.
  • April 2013 – world premiere of Tolstoy's Creed and Three Hymns of George Herbert as performed by The City Choir of Washington at the Washington National Cathedral.
  • 7 July 2013 – world premiere of Love Duet from The Play of Krishna, If Ye Love Me and The Death of Ivan Ilyich during an all-Tavener concert given as part of the Manchester International Festival.
  • 2013 – Tavener's piece The Lamb was included in the critically acclaimed soundtrack to Paolo Sorrentino's film The Great Beauty (Italy's official selection for the 2013 Academy Awards), which subsequently won.
Info: English composer
Index: 7.3
Type: Person Male
Period: 1944.1.28 - 2013.11.12
Age: aged 69
Area :United Kingdom
Occupation :Composer
Periods :Modernist Music
Sect :Minimal Music


Update Time:2018-01-06 20:31 / 6 years, 6 months ago.