John Tavener, TAVENER: Song for Athene / Svyati

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

If you watched the funeral of Princess Diana, you've heard Tavener's work — his Song for Athene accompanied the casket out of Winchester Cathedral, its dark, mournful, Russian-inflected melody pouring from tens of millions of TV sets. It was, arguably, the largest audience ever to hear a piece of classical music, although a close second might have been the global telecast of the turn of the millennium at London's Millennium Dome — which also featured Tavener's music. Discovered by the Beatles and signed to Apple Records in the late '60s, Tavener converted to Russian Orthodoxy in the early '70s, and has written simple, beautiful, melodic music inspired by the Greek and Russian liturgies ever since. This is an excellent introduction to the English mystic: Svyati is a luminous choral work with solo cello, and the rest of the album includes some of his greatest hits, like his Blake settings (The Tiger and The Lamb) and the Funeral Ikos.