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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Schuon Hymnen (2003)
Commissioned by Kammerkor Suourlands, Iceland
Text Writer
Frithjof Schuon
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus a cappella / + 1 instrument
Year Composed
14 Minutes
SATB choir
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Programme Note
John Tavener Schuon Hymnen (2003)
The metaphysician and Sufi Sheikh Frithjof Schuon had visions of the Holy Virgin as primordial and universal woman, and she often appeared to him, sometimes naked. The idea of Sacred Nudity is found in many great traditions, and in my setting of Schuon’s verses, I have tried to express in the music something of this Sacred Nudity as it relates to spiritual nakedness, as well as the super-effulgence of the Eternal Feminine, contemplation of which manifests God. There are two simple and primordial Hymns, separated by a text from the Song of Songs relating to the Virgin that Schuon returned to many times: Nugra sum, sed Formosa (I am black, but beautiful) with the refrain mit der Sonne nur bekleidet (clothed with the sun alone) running like a mantra throughout. The sacral erotic nature of the music must have nothing of indulgence or concupiscence – rather a pure, piercing and elemental beauty.
As I was completing this work, I heard of the death of my spiritual father, Metropolitan Anthony. I had a musical image of the Holy Virgin bearing his soul aloft, hence the final page Ad astra (to the stars). Sheikh Isa (Schuon) and Metropolitan Anthony (Anthony Bloom) knew each other in life, and now, in death, where all earthly forms vanish, they contemplate the same ineffable and infinite Beauty.


  • Ensemble
    Stephen Layton
  • Ensemble
    Chamber Choir of Southern Iceland
    Gudrun Johanna Olafsdottir (soprano), Hrolfur Saemundsson (baritone)
    Hilmar Örn Agnarsson
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