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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Wake Up ... And Die (1996)
commissioned by Sony Classical for Yo-Yo Ma
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Soloist(s) and Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
1996
Duration
15 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
cello


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Programme Note
John Tavener Wake Up ... And Die (1996)
It was while pondering these traditional dicta that I began to write the opening solo melody for the cello. It is in fact a palindrome because waking and dying are like two sides of a piece of paper. If you wake up spiritually, then you will die to all that is not of God. In the middle section, which is also a palindrome, the orchestral cellos join in the paradoxical meditation, providing a platform, as it were, while the cello line takes on a much more melismatic and decorative character.

In fact, the whole work is a series of intellectual contradictions, realised by the simplest of musical metaphysics. Dying life, life dying, waking up, in order to die, the solo cello always represents the individual mind dying, and the individual mind waking up.

Then, of a sudden, just before the end, the solo chant begins again, only to be cut off by a distant sentimental memory, the memory of "the blues", reminding us of ordinary human emotion, and of our fallen state. The very end suggests a waking up into a kind of peace (not soul slumber, since after death the soul becomes more intensely alive); but we know nothing of that, so the music fades beyond our ears.

John Tavener

  • Ensemble
    Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    Yo-Yo Ma, cello
    Conductor
    David Zinman
    Sony:
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