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John Tavener RIP
Luke Turner , November 12th, 2013 13:48

Composer passes away aged 69

John Tavener, one of our most important contemporary composers, has died, the BBC has revealed. Tavener, whose music explored the great unknown spaces between the human and the spiritual, had suffered from the hereditary Marfan Syndrome for much of his adult life, and died peacefully at home on Tuesday, November 11th. His publisher, James Rushton described Tavener as "one of the unique and most inspired voices in music of the last 50 years" and said that he "was a man of strong beliefs, huge personal warmth, loyalty and humour. He will be much missed."

The composer John Rutter also paid tribute, saying that Tavener was "a composer who was absolutely touched by genius at every point. He could bring an audience to a deep silence which is a very rare gift. You could also sense something very special even in his miniature pieces. He believed that music was for everybody and was a prayer. We can only lament the loss of the music still to come and the 70th birthday celebrations next year."

Tavener, whose nomadic spiritual beliefs were at the core of his music, appeared on an episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme Start The Week this past Monday, November 11th (listen here) discussing the poetry of George Herbert, which he had set to music. Tavener spoke of a new movement towards a new form of spiritual music. "I think it's the age where religions must come together, and therefore there must be a spirituality that comes out of that," he said. Asked if his illness had affected how he saw the world and his music, Tavener replied "Temporarily it seemed to shut everything down. I couldn't sense the idea of God any more, I couldn't sense any music, everything vanished." He added that after his wife had helped him back to health, "a different kind of faith started to come back."

In his final interview, published in The Telegraph, Tavener said "I’ve been thinking about the Presbyterian minister who had guided me as a youth. I remember he was a man who struggled with doubt, and that impressed me. He used to quote an old Zen Buddhist line to me: 'Life is a creeping tragedy. That is why you must be cheerful'.”

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