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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Ikon of Eros (2000)
commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra on the occasion of the Orchestra's Centennial
Text Writer
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
1 Hour 10 Minutes
Greek, Sanskrit
soprano, baritone, violin

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Programme Note
John Tavener Ikon of Eros (2000)
It was with the thoughts and sayings of the Holy Fathers, and of the Hindu scriptures, that I contemplated the work. What began as a piece of music for violin and orchestra ended up as Ikon of Eros, for solo violin, orchestra and choir. The choir acts like a Greek chorus, singing at some distance from the other performers: they sing key words in Greek: Metemorphóthes (Transfigured), Éros (Divine love), Ékstasis (Ecstasy), and Allilúia (the unending song of the Angels).

The invocation in Sanskrit in the third movement, sung by a solo baritone, translates:
Purified, O Soma, by drops, thou movest concealed in the waters; rich in treasure thou residest in the womb of the sacrifice, a golden fount divine.

The solo singers may be taken from choir, if suitable voices are available. The soprano and baritone in the third movement should be trained by an Indian master, and the tenor in the last movement by a Greek Psaltis.

The brass instruments represent God the Father, the strings, God the son, and the woodwind, God the Holy Spirit. The solo violin, which plays almost continuously, represents Divine Eros itself (common in its deepest sense to all religious traditions), and also our longing for God, and His longing for us. It should play form high up, above the main group.

The layout of the performers will vary according to the building, but it should be in Trinitarian form, ideally shaped like a pyramid with the solo violin at the pinnacle, or at least above the orchestra.

The music should be played in a resonant acoustic, with plenty of space to emphasise the musical symbolism and metaphysics. Unlike Western Art Music, Ikon of Eros succeeds or fails, as does all traditional and sacred art, and all sacred music of the East, by its ability to create an inner spiritual state.

John Tavener

Preview the score:

  • Ensemble
    Minnesota Orchestra and Chorale
    Jorja Fleezanis (vn), Patricia Rozario (S), Tim Krol (Bar)
    Paul Goodwin
  • 11 SEP 2014
    Riga, Latvia
    Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, The State Choir Latvija
    Maris Sirmais, conductor
  • 17 OCT 2010
    Lunds Stadshall, Malmo, Sweden
    Camerata Nordica / Ensemble SYD / Malmo Hogskola
  • 16 MAR 2006
    Ikon of Eros Country Premiere
    Madrid, Spain
    Orquesta Sinfónica de RTVE
    Adrian Leaper, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17 March - Madrid, Spain
  • 27 OCT 2005
    Ikon of Eros European Premiere
    Chichester Cathedral
    City of London Sinfonia / London Symphony Chorus
    Chloe Hanslip (violin), Patricia Rozario (soprano); Paul Goodwin, conductor
  • 13 NOV 2002
    St Paul Cathedral, Minneapolis, USA
    Minnesota Orchestra / Minnesota Chorale
    Jorja Fleezanis, violin / Patriia Rozario, soprano; Paul Goodwin, conductor

    Other Dates:
    14,15 November - St Paul Cathedral, Minneapolis, USA

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