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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Svyati (1995)
commissioned by Cricklade Music Festival
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)

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Programme Note
John Tavener Svyati (1995)
I began to write Svyati in early 1995: while sketching it, Iearned that John Williams, father of Jane, my dear friend and publisher, was dying. I could not refrain from dedicating it to Jane and to the memory of her father.

The text is in Church Slavonic, and it is used at almost every Russian Orthodox service, perhaps most poignantly after the congregation have kissed the body in an open coffin at an Orthodox funeral. The choir sings as the coffin is closed and borne out of the church, followed by the mourners with lighted candles. The cello represents the Priest or Ikon of Christ, and should play at a distance from the choir, perhaps at the opposite end of the building. As is Greek drama, choir and priest are in dialogue with each other. Since the cello represents the Ikon of Christ, it must be played without any sentiment of a Western character, but should derive from the chanting of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  • Ensemble
    Moscow Virtuosi / Kiev Chamber Choir / Chilingirian String Quartet
    Patricia Rozario, soprano / Steven Isserlis, cello / Vladimir Spivakov and Mykola Gobdych, conductors
  • Ensemble
    Choir of St John's College, Cambridge
    Timothy Hugh, cello
    Christopher Robinson
  • 16 APR 2018
    Hradec Králové Philharmonic, Czech Republic
    Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic Choir
    Lukas Vasilek, conductor
  • 25 NOV 2016
    The Roundhouse, London
    London Contemporary Orchestra and Singers
  • 23 OCT 2016
    Britten Studio, Snape, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
    Aldeburgh Voices
    Leonard Elschenbroich, cello; Tom Appleton, conductor
  • 14 MAY 2016
    Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
    Swedish Radio Choir
  • 01 MAY 2016
    Acht Brücken Festival
    Köln, Germany
    Kammerchor Consono
    Katharina Deserno, Cello; Harald Jers, conductor
  • 18 MAR 2016
    New York, NY
    St. Thomas Choir of Men & Boys
  • 12 MAR 2016
    Iglesia de San Juan de Ribera, Badajoz
    Iagoba Fanlo; Rupert Damerell, conductor
  • 24 OCT 2014
    Cello Biënnale Amsterdam
    Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ , Amsterdam
    Cappella Amsterdam
  • 25 SEP 2014
    Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival
    Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
    The Sixteen
    Guy Johnston (cello); Harry Christophers, conductor
  • 13 SEP 2014
    Hommage a John Tavener
    Eglise St Franois de Sales, Geneva
    Choeur in illo tempore
    Irina Solomatina Tissot, soprano; John DeVore, cello; Alexandre Traube, conductor

    Other Dates:
    14 September - Eglise Notre-Dame, Morteau
  • 05 JUL 2014
    Wigmore Hall, London
    Hugo Ticciati (Violin), Christian Poltera (Cello); Tonu Kaljuste, conductor
  • 06 APR 2014
    St Alfege Church, Greenwich, London
    Thomas Tallis Society
    James Burton, conductor
  • 25 JAN 2014
    John Tavener Celebration Weekend
    7:30pm - St John's Smith Square, London
    Orchestra of St John's with OSJ Voices
    Alice Neary (cello); John Lubbock, conductor
  • 28 AUG 2013
    Ankunft: Neue Musik
    Hauptbahnhof, Berlin
    Chro der Herz-Jesu-Kirche Berlin-Mitte
    Zoe Cartier, cello; Andrzej Mielewczyk, conductor
  • 04 AUG 2012
    Hong Kong City Hall, Concert Hall
    Hong Kong Bach Chamber Choir
    Nicholas Cleobury, conductor
  • 19 MAY 2012
    St Pancras Church
    Exultate Singers
  • 08 OCT 2011
    Amsterdam Concertgebouw
    Netherlands Chamber Choir
    Herre-Jan Stegenga (cello); Gordan Nikolic, conductor
  • 02 APR 2010
    St Paul's Basilica, Toronto, Canada
    Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Mendelssohn Singers
    John Marshman, cello; Noel Edison, conductor
  • 07 MAR 2009
    Church of St Mary-le-Bow, London
    Ad Libitum Chamber Choir
    Rebecca Hewes (cello); Julian Collings, conductor
  • 25 OCT 2008
    TEMENOS: A celebration of the music of John Tavener
    St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dundalk, Louth, Ireland
    Marta Sudraba cello; Stephen Layton, conductor
  • 18 JUL 2008
    Serenades World Premiere
    Ryedale Festival
    York Minster, York, UK
    BBC Singers
    Stephen Cleobury, conductor
  • 16 JUN 2005
    St John's, Smith Square
    City of London Choir
    Gerard Le Feuvre (cello); Hilary Davan Wetton, conductor
  • 26 MAY 2005
    Classic FM
    Steven Isserlis (cello)
  • 16 OCT 2004
    Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Epping
    Harlow Chorus
    Adrian Bradbury (vc); Sarah Tenant-Flowers, conductor
  • 09 SEP 2004
    Vale of Glamorgan
    Llandaff Cathedral
    English Symphony Orchestra / Cantorion Ardwyn Singers
    Raphael Wallfisch, cello; William Boughton / Helena Braithwaite, conductor
  • 04 MAY 2004
    Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver
    musica intima
    Steven Isserlis
  • 14 SEP 2003
    Dorchester Abbey, Dorchester-on-Thames
    Orchestra of St John's
  • 28 JUN 2002
    Spitalfields Festival
    Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge
    Christopher Robinson, conductor
  • 04 APR 2002
    Brixen, Italy
    KAMER Choir
    Marta Sudraba, cello; Maris Sirmais, conductor

    Other Dates:
    6 April - Basel, Switzerland
    8 April - Milan, Italy
  • 20 MAR 2002
    Riga, Latvia
    KAMER Choir
    Marta Sudraba, cello; Maris Sirmais, conductor

    Other Dates:
    24 March - Budapest, Hungary
    25 March - Wels, Austria

A rather mournful, yet radiantly heartfelt work... (Svyati is)... a setting of the texts usually intoned in Russian Orthodox funeral rites, joined here by a solo cello, which wordlessly intoned the role of the officiating priest... The net effect was softly meditative, with the cello's somber lines weaving in and out of the choir's often repetitive choral verses; the vocal textures floated ethereally over a low, rumbling drone from the basses. The capacity audience sat spellbound throughout, as if in a heavenly dream. The supreme moment came at the end, as the cello's incredibly soft, rising tones seemed to say "Amen".
Lindsay Koob, Charleston City Paper,31/05/2012
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