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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Lament for Jerusalem (2002)
Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
50 Minutes
English, Greek
Soprano, Countertenor

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Programme Note
John Tavener Lament for Jerusalem (2002)
Lament for Jerusalem is a mystical love song. It is only through love, that there can be a transcendent unity of all religions, and all manifestations of God. There is the Christic element in Christ's lament over Jerusalem, which is sung by the chorus in the original Greek; then, there is the Judaic element in the Psalm 'By the Waters of Babylon we sat down and wept', sung by the choir and soprano solo; the Islamic dimension is taken from the prologue of Rumi's sublime Masnavi, and this is always sung by the counter-tenor. I see the Lament as a mystical love song, because all three elements can be viewed esoterically, as a lament concerning the loss of the beatific vision. Also, with the knowledge that the loss is merely temporary, because the loss is far-outweighed by the Absolute and Infinite worth of that which is lost. Thus, it is only through love of God (which is the ultimate aim of this mystical love song) that the world, at an esoteric level, can heal itself in a civilisation of plurality and exoteric discord. Music is the highest form of philosophy, and I offer this love song to all who seek God, from whatever tradition they come. Any act of love, must by its very nature unite. The composer may take from Traditions as he pleases, and through the act of composing, which is an act of love, he attempts to form a unity.

The music of Lament for Jerusalem should be sung and played with great intensity, but at the same time, with great purity of heart, always reflecting the mystical, sacred and sublime nature of the texts, Also, although intensely tender, it should have a magisterial dignity, transcending any human dimension. The mysterious words of Christ ambiguously and consistently haunt the music of the entire Lament, showing perhaps a temporary loss of the Beatific vision at the end of the Hindu cycle, the Kali Yuga. This music attempts to bring about a transcendent unity though, by a music of tenderness and love, reflecting the sublimity of the three sacred texts.

John Tavener

Preview the score:

  • Ensemble
    Australian Youth Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs
    Patricia Rozario (Sop), Christopher Josey (Cten)
    Thomas Woods
    ABC Classics:
  • 18 DEC 2014
    Spitalfields Winter Festival
    Christ Church, Spitalfields
    Choir of London
    Mary Bevan soprano; Andrew Watts countertenor; Jeremy Summerly, conductor
  • 19 APR 2013
    Sala koncertowa Filharmonii Narodowej, Warsaw, POLAND
    Orkiestra Symfoniczna i Chór Filharmonii Narodowej
    Eliza Kruszczynska; Alon Harari; Piotr Gajewski, conductor
  • 22 OCT 2011
    Prairie Village, KS
    Village Presbyterian Church
    Matthew Shepard, conductor

    Other Dates:
    23 October - Prairie Village, KS
  • 21 MAY 2011
    St. Anselm's Parish Church, Hayes, Middlesex
    Uxbridge Choral Society
    Jeff Stewart, conductor
  • 22 APR 2011
    Phoenix, AZ
    All Saints' Episcopal Church
    Scott Youngs, conductor
  • 08 APR 2011
    Washington DC
    Washington National Cathedral

    Other Dates:
    21 May - Washington DC
  • 23 FEB 2008
    Leeds Town Hall, Leeds
    Leeds Philharmonic Choir
    David Hill, conductor
  • 09 MAR 2006
    St John's, Smith Square, London
    The Choir of London, The Orchestra of London
    Jeremy Summerly, conductor

    Other Dates:
    11 March - St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
  • 30 APR 2005
    Lament for Jerusalem Country Premiere
    Wellington Town Hall, New Zealand
    Orpheus Choir of Wellington
  • 19 SEP 2004
    Lament for Jerusalem European Premiere
    Kings College Chapel, Cambridge
    Orchestra of the City / Rodolphus Choir

    Other Dates:
    23 September - St George's Cathedral, London
  • 24 JUL 2003
    Lament for Jerusalem World Premiere
    Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
    Australian Youth Orchestra/Sydney Philharmonic Choir
    Patricia Rozario, Christopher Josey

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