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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Canticle of the Mother of God (1976)
commissioned by Cantores in Ecclesia
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
13 Minutes
Greek, Hebrew

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Programme Note
John Tavener Canticle of the Mother of God (1976)
Canticle of the Mother of God was conceived in Greece in 1976. The opening soprano stanza came to me as a melody, complete with its quarter tones.

I decided early on in the composition that the soprano soloists should sing in Hebrew and that the music of the "Hebrew Maid" should be decorative and melismatic. The chorus always answers antiphonally in block chords sung in ancient Greek, representing the hieratic nature of the language.

To some extent the Canticle is a reaction against the western Roman Catholic and Protestant settings of the Magnificent, resplendent master-pieces though many of them are. My setting is small in scale, liturgical in character; therefore I consider it closer to the "Pneuma" of the eastern orthodox tradition.

Canticle of the Mother of God was written to a commission from Cantores in Ecclesia who gave the first performance with Elise Ross (soprano), conducted by Michael Howard in Rye Parish Church during the Rye Spring Festival on 22 April 1977. It is dedicated with profound respect and love to Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.

John Tavener

  • Ensemble
    Taverner Choir
    Jane Atkins, viola Claron McFadden, soprano Moray Welsh, cello
    Andrew Parrott
  • Ensemble
    Various including Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Taverner Choir, Westminster Abbey Choir, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Various including Yo-Yo Ma, cello / Claron McFadden, soprano / James Bowman, counter-tenor / Timothy Wilson, counter-tenor / Martin Baker, organ
    Various including David Zinman / Andrew Parrott / Martin Neary
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