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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Lamentations and Praises (2000)
commissioned by Chanticleer, the Handel and Haydn Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and funded by Mrs Paul L. Wattis and the Carlyle Fund
Text Writer
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
1 Hour 10 Minutes
Programme Note
John Tavener Lamentations and Praises (2000)
The 'Production' must be as simple, and as stylized as possible. The 'costumes' should be ikonographical. There should be a wooden cross in one place (Golgotha), an anointing stone in another, and perhaps not a tomb but a place of entrance into which the people process into and process out of.

In order of events: firstly, all the singers, musicians etc. should process slowly and solemnly into the church, taking up their various positions - all in silence. The singers/mimes should move to Golgotha to the simple wooden cross. During 'The Descent from the Cross' (with no-one actually on it), singers/mimes should stretch forth their hands and arms, the 'women' should cover their faces etc. all in a highly stylized manner, as still as possible. This action will take place every time that 'The Descent from the Cross' is shown, but only in front of the cross the first time. Then after 'The Descent' all prostrate fully in front of the unseen dead Christ. All gestures and mimes should be taken from the relevant ikons - very, very still and like a Greek 'frieze'. Then follows Stasis I, before the dead Christ - 'O Life, how can You die? - 'Lo, how fain His beauty, Never man was so fain...' etc. In between the verses there should be bowing and prostrating before the dead Christ. Then follows the formal Lament in front of the Dead God - using the ancient Greek formal lamenting "otmoi" - then either an actual 'Epitaphios' or a wooden plank with a cross on it representing the dead Christ should be hoisted over the shoulders of the singers/mimes. The procession to the Anointing Stone should be totally without emotion, again like a Greek frieze or Ikon. A kind of ancient Greek urn with incense should be carried with the procession. 'Give me this stranger, give me this naked one, Give me this corpse, give me this stranger, who being a stranger in this world, has nowhere to lay His Head...'.

This is the 'pattern' for the whole piece. But after the third Stasis, the procession should emerge without the Epitaphios. The descent into Hades where 9 singers/mimes watch three singers/mimes, Christ and Adam and Eve - Christ, with hands down-stretched (also very still) pulling Adam and Eve (with hands out-stretched) out of Hades (The Resurrection Ikon). The building 'becomes' the vaults of Heaven and Hell, as the choir of Angels, Archangels etc (pre-recorded tape) fill the building with the sound 'RISEN.' After this, all singers/mimes/musicians etc process totally objectively (as at the beginning) out of the church.

This is a very basic conception, but it needs a very basic concept with no extension fuss or dross. It is like 'a sequence of Ikons' with a 'corridor of music', and the events 'heard' and 'seen' are so full of 'gladdening sorrow' that no-one should dare to add anything.

Glory to You O Christ God, Glory to You.

John Tavener

Preview the score:

  • Ensemble
    Chanticleer / Handel and Haydn Society of Boxton Ensemble
    Joseph Jennings
"Lamentations and Praises" is certainly significant. It is an epic work of our times and certainly one of the most important pieces of new original classical vocal music of the year.
Jim Harrington, Oakland Tribune,02/02/2002
Chanticleer's blissful singing is all-consuming; might this be Tavener's greatest work yet? … We are led through a series of powerful scenes depicting the death and resurrection of Christ. The few quiet notes of the opening theme, which reappear, transformed, at the close are a pointer to what follows, much of which is of great beauty, tenderness and drama.
Mary Berry, Gramophone,01/02/2002
Epiphanic pleasures await those who submit to this music's meditative spell.,01/02/2002
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