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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Flood of Beauty (2007)
Commissioned by the Barbican Centre.
Work Notes
SCORING Dome Percussion (3 players): Very large tam-tam Handbells Wind chimes Wooden chimes Solo soprano String Quartet (may be taken from the main body of strings) Group 1 (South) Choir 1 SATB 2 flutes (both doubling piccolo) 2 oboes 2 clarinets in B􀀛* (2nd doubling bass clarinet*) 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon) Group 2 (East) Choir 2 SATB 4 trumpets in C (2 doubling piccolo trumpets) 3 trombones Centre Solo soprano Solo baritone Solo cello “Indian” group: Sitar Tampura (stringed drone instrument) Tabla Grand organ Group 3 (North) Choir 3 SATB Piano Strings (minimum desks.) Group 4 (West) Timpani Percussion (1 player): 2 Tibetan temple bowls, 2 Hindu temple gongs * Notated in C in the score Note: It may be possible for one Soprano soloist to move from the Central platform to the “Dome” location and back again.
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
1 Hour 30 Minutes
Programme Note
John Tavener Flood of Beauty (2007)
“The Absolute is formless, but energy is female. When the energy takes form, it is called Mother. Mother is the Moving Power, disturbing into waves the water-calm of the Absolute. Power implies a Power-Holder. The Power-Holder is Siva. There is no Siva without Sakti, or Sakti without Siva. The Two, as they are, in themselves are one. They are each Being – Consciousness and Bliss – Sachchidananda.”

* * * *

The Saundarya Lahari of Sankarachacarya, a vast poem of one hundred stanzas, forms the basis of my work written for five separate choral and instrumental groups, with a Solo Cello representing ‘Bliss’ (Ananda) a Solo Soprano representing ‘Being’ (Sat) and a Solo Baritone representing ‘Consciousness’ (Chit), in the middle. The music is divided into five cycles, separated by outbursts of Divine Play (Lila) and contemplative passages for Solo Cello. The poem, like all Hindu art, is erotic and Tantric, for the mother of the universe is the fountain-head of beauty, riches, and knowledge. The poem describes Her physical beauty, and seeks union with Her, without any earthly bondage.
The work begins and ends with the unique sound of the sitar, which represents ‘OM’, and therefore eternity. In between, the hundred verses in Sanskrit are sung by three separate choirs with their respective instruments and spaces with an almost continuous commentary from the Solo Cello. The Tabla begins an improvisation at Verse 10 and continues to Verse 90. The poem of Shankara contains a rigorous rhythmic structure which never varies, hence providing a unifying and almost trance-like music from beginning to end. The first Cycle sets seven verses, the second cycle fourteen verses, the third cycle twenty-one verses, the fourth cycle twenty-eight verses and the fifth cycle thirty-five verses, thus in total comprising one hundred verses.
The groups of instruments and choirs should be as far apart as possible, surrounding the audience so that the music whirls around the building. The high central Dome represents the Sri Chakra or ‘Home’ of the Divine Mother. The Sri Chakra is also conceived as Siva-Sakti in the macrocosmic, as also in the microcosmic aspects ie as the Cosmos and as the individual. In the sacred diagram which represents the Sri Chakra, nine triangles are
superimposed around a small central circle, forming forty-three Konas or triangular projections. This highly symbolic number influences the construction of the music, as at every 43 beats the large Tam-Tam sounds in the Dome (Sri Chakra). The mood of the music is one of sustained rapture, offset by moments of ‘Divine Play’ and
indeed of humour.
The work was composed over a year, between July 2006 and July 2007.

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“it assaults the senses, deliberately seeking to encompass the listener within the scope of its sound.”
Caroline Crampton, New Statesman,09/10/2014
“powerful, emphatic moments in Flood of Beauty, and a spirit of idealism went abroad”
Paul Driver, Sunday Times ,05/10/2014
“decidedly rhapsodic and, as always with Tavener, beguiling.”
Fiona Maddocks , The Observer ,05/10/2014
“Any notion of a composer loosening his grip on experimentation is ripped apart by Flood of Beauty…a piece of complexity, dramatic progression and beautifully poised moments of melancholy…the audience are transfixed by the sonic virtuosity.”
Peter Lindley , Morning Star ,01/10/2014
The piece could stand as an encapsulation of Tavener’s music: all-encompassing and suffused with religious ecstasy. […] the Saundarya travels to a state of erotic triumph, and Tavener matches the meter of the music to the journey. He also supplies some of his most beautiful music. […] Tavener was aiming for the inundation described in the title, a full immersion, and by and large he managed it, with tingling climaxes that gradually merge into a great cry of spiritual affirmation. As last words go, these are some of the best.
Neil Fisher, The Times,30/09/2014
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