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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

The Last Discourse (1997)
commissioned by Lord and Lady Marks for the Byzantine Festival in London 1998
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus a cappella / + 1 instrument
Year Composed
22 Minutes
Soprano, Bass, Double Bass (amplified)
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Tavener describes the Discourse of Christ with the Disciples at the Last Supper as “one of the most disturbing and at the same time comforting meetings of Heaven and earth”. And his method of conveying it in music is touched with genius. He has his bass-voice sing solemnly, painfully, sliding along the note in a style based on ancient Indian tradition, with an amplified double-bass for company. Stephen Richardson sang Christ, Barry Guy played double-bass (both performed from the first gallery) with soprano Patricia Rozario providing the voice of Holy Wisdom from the Whispering Gallery. There’s one particular passage near the end of the piece where Christ bids the comforter weep and rejoice, and the orchestra soft as gentle rain, with the words “Again I leave the world, Again go to the Father”. It was a wonderful moment, exquisitely realised, and so different from the warning auguries that hover elsewhere in the piece… Inevitably, memories of Tavener’s contribution to Princess Diana’s funeral service fuelled expectations, but The Last Discourse is very different for Song for Athene.
Rob Cowan, The Independent,01/03/1998
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