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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

The World is Burning (1993)
commissioned by the Monteverdi Choir for its 30th anniversary
Text Writer
Mother Thekla
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Solo voices from the choir

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Programme Note
John Tavener The World is Burning (1993)
Like a relentless Greek tragedy the world (main choir) makes its cosmic lamentation ‘the world is burning’, without any apparent sense of the transcendent presence.

Interspersed are prayers and reproaches crying out to God for help (solo group: counter tenor, tenor and bass). But, salvation is come. And though the world is crying for help, the world is already saved. Its “faith” (the voice of Christ), however miserably poor, has saved it. So, in a way – all is separate (salvation – damnation- agony). And all is one inside the Saviour.

In the final bars, it seems as if the message of Christ has finally permeated. ‘The world is burning’ is no longer a relentless Greek tragedy. The Transfiguration has happened, however briefly.

‘Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise’ (St Luke 23, 43).

John Tavener

  • Ensemble
    Monteverdi Choir
    Sir John Eliot Gardiner
  • 03 APR 2015
    Sacred Music for a Sacred Space
    St. Paul's Basilica, Toronto
    Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
    David Roth, baritone; Michael Bloss, organ; Noel Edison, conductor
  • 24 NOV 2012
    St Saviour's Church, St Albans
    St Albans Chamber Choir
  • 13 OCT 2004
    The Myrrh-Bearer Country Premiere
    The World is Burning Country Premiere
    St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne
    Melbourne Chorale Ensemble
    Brett Dean viola

    Other Dates:
    20 October - St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne

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