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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

The Hidden Face (1996)
commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia
Text Writer
Mother Maria
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
15 Minutes
countertenor, oboe

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Programme Note
John Tavener The Hidden Face (1996)
The Hidden Face is a prayer, for solo counter-tenor, oboe, and a distant group of muted violins and violas. It tries to hold within it a whole tradition with nothing personal or idiosyncratic, as in ikon painting, though this is a severe challenge for a composer working at the end of the 20th Century. There was once a music which was not "interesting" in the way that nearly all Western music from the early Middle Ages is interesting. To be interesting, in the modern Western sense, it must be not only created, but made even more interesting by "the obscene tyrant, the ego".

Prayer, in the Orthodox East, is from the heart. The mind must have gone into the heart. We pray secretly, secret even from ourselves, since only the Divine Presence knows what is in our hearts, and this suggests a music of such humility, wrapped in a depth of inner silence and stillness of which we have no idea.

Paradise was made of peace, and so Adam could hear the Divine Voice. It is almost impossible now. We have to cast off all the received, intellectual, sophisticated garbage, and also the preconceived knowledge of God that modern man has so disastrously collected, and listen with a heart that has become so soft that the Face is no longer Hidden.

But we are still at the beginning, so the title remains The Hidden Face.

John Tavener

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  • Ensemble
    Michael Chance, counter-tenor Nicholas Daniel, oboe
    Harmonia Mundi:
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