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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Little Ceremonial (2009)
Chester Music Ltd
Year Composed
11 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration

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Programme Note
John Tavener Little Ceremonial (2009)
Different ideas revolve around each other, expanding and contracting. The mood is that of a Ceremonial, like a procession, but which seems to go nowhere. This short piece is scored for a Beethoven-sized orchestra, and it is dedicated to the West Autralian Symphony Orchestra.

I had dreamt the idea of Little Ceremonial as a procession apparently going nowhere. The notes of Little Ceremonial all come from a 25-note palindrome. The basis of the palindrome is a Greek text I had seen on a fountain in Istanbul: NIΨON ANOMHMATA MH MONAN OΨIN – “Wash the sins, not only the face”. Every note of Little Ceremonial is based on this palindrome and the various palindromic ideas rotate around each other. However, the complete set of twenty-five notes is never reached thereby giving the aural impression of the work going nowhere, reflecting the experience of my dream. I had been listening closely to Handel while writing this piece, but his influence only shows in the ceremonial processional nature of the piece as a whole. Little Ceremonial was the last thing I wrote before a recent very serious illness.

John Tavener
January 2010

Score preview:

  • 05 OCT 2014
    BBC SO Total Immersion: John Tavener Remembered
    Barbican, London
    Brindley Sherratt (baritone), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello); Alexander Vedernikov, conductor
  • 07 MAY 2011
    Little Ceremonial UK Premiere
    Norfolk & Norwich Festival
    St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, UK
    English Chamber Orchestra
    David Parry, conductor
  • 27 MAR 2010
    Perth Concert Hall, Perth, Australia
    West Australia Symphony Orchestra
    Paul Daniel, conductor
  • 26 MAR 2010
    Little Ceremonial World Premiere
    Perth Concert Hall, Perth, Australia
    West Australia Symphony Orchestra
    Paul Daniel, conductor

Ushered in by fanfares, the work, with its beautiful writing for the strings, has about it a quiet otherworldliness that falls most agreeably on the ear. As ever, Tavener’s faultless ear for attractive instrumental colours has been exploited to excellent effect. Tavener says the music came to him in a dream "giving the aural impression of a work going nowhere". I beg to differ. On evidence of this first airing, this little orchestral gem is going straight into the repertoire where it deserves to be.
Neville Cohn ,,3/29/2010
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