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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Popule Meus (2009)
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
14 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)

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Programme Note
John Tavener Popule Meus (2009)
Popule Meus is a meditation on the Judaic and Christian text “O my People, what have I done to you?”, but it is also a Universalist contemplation of the wholesale rejection of God by modern man. However much man rejects God, he cannot escape Him, and indeed he is condemned to the supernatural by his deiform nature. In Hindu terms he is the Absolute – Ayam Atma Brahma (The Self is the Absolute).

In this work the Solo Cello is the all-compassionate one, while the Timpani represent man in his vain and pointless rejection. Although the solo cello and strings, and the timpani, share the same material (four ideas are gradually revealed, and they revolve four times during the piece), the timpani music is violent and becomes increasingly frenzied and contracted, while the cello and strings remain still and serene.

So even in winning, the Darkness loses, and even in losing the Light wins. Passion, Resurrection and Redemption; or in Hindu terms Atma (The Absolute) alone is real, Maya (The Relative) is merely illusion.


Preview the score:

  • 06 APR 2012
    King's College Chapel, Cambridge
    Britten Sinfonia
    Guy Johnston, cello; Stephen Cleobury, conductor
  • 03 SEP 2011
    Proms 2011
    Royal Albert Hall, London
    BBC Singers / Britten Sinfonia
    Natalie Clein, cello; David Hill, conductor

    Other Dates:
    3 September - Cadogan Hall, London
  • 26 JAN 2011
    Popule Meus European Premiere
    Concert Hall, Gnessin Academy of Music, Russia
    State Academic Chamber Orchestra
    Sergei Antonov; Yevgeny Bushkov, conductor
  • 02 DEC 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Nashville Symphony
    Steven Isserlis; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor

    Other Dates:
    3,4 December - Nashville, TN
  • 02 DEC 2010
    Schermerhorn Symphony Centre, Nashville, USA
    Nashville Symphony Orchestra
    Stephen Isserlis; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor

    Other Dates:
    3,4 December - Schermerhorn Symphony Centre, Nashville, USA
  • 04 APR 2010
    Popule Meus Country Premiere
    Norfolk, VA
    Virginia Symphony
    Michael Daniels, cello; Jonathan Morton, conductor
  • 02 APR 2010
    Popule Meus Country Premiere
    Ferguson Center Newport News, USA
    Virginia Symphony Orchestra
    Michael Daniels

    Other Dates:
    3 April - Chrysler Hall, Norfolk, USA
  • 06 FEB 2010
    Popule Meus World Premiere
    Winnipeg, Canada
    Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
    Yuri Hooker; Alexander Mickelthwate, conductor

...what appeals most about Popule meus is the sensitive quality of the solo line, which sounded as if it could have come straight from one of the composer's haunting choral works. Its composer fully deserved the audience's rapturous applause.
Adrian Horsewood, musicOMH,03/09/2011
Brief, expressive and purposeful, it opens with lightning-strikes by the timpani that threaten the cello’s solemn answering theme. This alternation continues, with the timpani full of sound and fury and the cello, which plays incessantly, not so much responding to the challenge as maintaining a steady, progressively warmer and more affirmative stance. Tavener undoubtedly intends the cello to symbolise the power of steadfast faith against the temptations of the secular world hurled out by the timpani. Throughout, the orchestra is mostly a backdrop, providing thrumming support. In the end, although the timpani does not go whimpering away, the cello has the last quiet word.
Herman Trotter, The Buffalo News,16/05/2010
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