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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Life Eternal
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
25 Minutes
soprano, bass
Programme Note
John Tavener Life Eternal
The Greek word Zoée means “Life”. When Christ uses it in the Gospel of St John, it always implies Life Eternal, both here and now, and in the Age to Come. This work is a meditation on this word, and on Zoée eónios “Life Eternal”.

The meditation is based on the Gospel narrative of The Raising of Lazarus, recounting the dialogue of Christ and Martha. “Everyone who is alive and has faith in me will never die”. As Lazarus comes back to life at the bare word of Christ, all the bells are rung, reminding the listener that this miracle is the precursor of Christ’s own Resurrection.

The music for Christ is rhythmically very obscure, with the tactus changing on almost every bar. This symbolises the Eternal Logos, fully active in all great religious traditions, hence this ancient rhythmic language which originates in the Hindu chant of the Samaveda, used for chanting the Rigveda. Martha’s music is related, but simpler, symbolising her total faith in Christ. The apex of both music and text comes at the words “Jesus wept”.

Life Eternal was written in memory of Patricia Rozario’s father: eternal memory – Colin.

Preview the score:

  • 21 JUL 2002
    Life Eternal World Premiere
    Cheltenham Music Festival 2002
    Tewkesbury Abbey
    BBC National Orchestra of Wales
    Patricia Rozario, soprano / Stephen Richardson, baritone; Richard Hickox, conductor

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