The composer John Tavener, who died on November 12th, once said many artists were good at leading the listener into hell, but that he was more interested in showing the way to paradise. John Rutter describes Tavener as having the “very rare gift” of being able to “bring an audience to a deep silence.”
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.
In 2003 Tavener composed the exceptionally large work The Veil of the Temple (which was premièred at the Temple Church, London), based on texts from a number of religions. Identified by Tavener as “the supreme achievement of my life”, it is set for four choirs, several orchestras and soloists and lasts at least seven hours.