Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burned the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? And what dread feet?
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terros clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Poem by William Blake
Music: John Tavener - Choir New College Oxford - The Tyger with the William Blake's poem
Tavener cursó estudios de música en la Highgate School y posteriormente en la Royal Academy of Music, donde tuvo como tutor a Sir Lennox Berkeley entre otros. Fue conocido por primera vez en 1968 debido a la composición de su cantata dramática La ballena, basada en el Libro de Jonás del Antiguo Testamento. Esta obra fue estrenada en el concierto de debut de la London Sinfonietta y posteriormente grabada por la discográfica Apple Records.
En 1977, Tavener entró a formar parte de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa, permaneciendo en ella durante dos décadas. A partir de dicho momento, la teología ortodoxa y su tradición litúrgica se convirtieron en la influencia más importante de su obra. Tavener se interesó particularmente por el misticismo, estudiando y musicando los escritos de Padres de la Iglesia como San Juan Crisóstomo.
Una de las obras más populares y programadas del repertorio de Tavener es su breve composición coral en cuatro partes sobre el poema El cordero de William Blake, escrito en 1985. Esta pieza, simple y homofónica, se interpreta habitualmente como villancico.
Otros trabajos importantes posteriores son: The Akathist of Thanksgiving (1987, escrito en conmemoración del milenario de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa); El velo protector (interpretado por primera vez por el violonchelista Steven Isserlis y la London Symphony Orchestra en los Proms de 1989); y Song For Athene (1993, de la que se recuerda su interpretación en el funeral de Diana, Princesa de Gales en 1997). Posteriormente a la muerte de Diana, Tavener también compuso y dedicó a su memoria la pieza Amanecer de la Eternidad, basada en un poema de William Blake.
Aunque en la prensa británica se ha comentado que Tavener podría haber abandonado la Iglesia ortodoxa para explorar otras tradiciones religiosas, como el Hinduismo y el Islam, así como las enseñanzas del místico Frithjof Schuon,1 Tavener afirmó recientemente en un episodio del programa Sacred Music que sigue considerándose "esencialmente ortodoxo".2
En 2003, compuso una obra excepcionalmente extensa, The Veil of the Temple, la cual se inspira en textos de diferentes religiones. Requiere para su interpretación el concurso de cuatro coros, varias orquestas y solistas y su duración alcanza las siete horas.
Mientras que las primeras composiciones de Tavener se encuentran influenciadas por la obra de Ígor Stravinski, su música más reciente es más escasa, utiliza un amplio registro musical y es habitualmente diatónicamente tonal. Algunos críticos han visto similitudes entre su obra y los trabajos de Arvo Pärt, desde su tradición religiosa común hasta detalles técnicos de la longitud de las frases, diatonismo y sus coloristas efectos de percusión. Olivier Messiaen ha sido citado también como una influencia importante en sus primeras obras.
En 2000 John Tavener fue investido con el título de “Sir” por sus servicios a la música. En 2006 compuso una obra de quince minutos titulada "Fragmentos de una plegaria" para el film Hijos de los hombres del director mexicano Alfonso Cuarón.
Hitos importantes en su carrera
1968 - Estreno de The Whale por la London Sinfonietta.
1973 - Thérèse, la historia de Santa Teresa de Lisieux, comisionada por la Royal Opera de Londres.
1989 - Première de The Protecting Veil en los Proms de Londres.
2003 - Première de la vigilia nocturna The Veil of the Temple.
2005 - Première de Laila (Amu), la primera colaboración de Tavener con la danza.
The Whale (1966; para solistas, narrador, coro SATB, coro infantil y orquesta).
Celtic Requiem (1969; para soprano, coro de niños y orquesta).
The Protecting Veil (1988; violonchelo, cuerdas).
Ikon of the Nativity (1991; coro SATB, a cappella).
Song for Athene (1993; coro SATB).
Lamentations and Praises (2001; 12 voces masculinas, cuarteto de cuerda, flauta, trombón bajo, percusión) .
The Veil of the Temple (2002; para soprano, coro SATB, coro infantil y conjunto).
Schuon Lieder (2003; para soprano y conjunto).
Laila (Amu) (2004; soprano, tenor, orquesta).
Lament for Jerusalem (2006; soprano, contratenor, coro SATB y orquesta).
Sir John Kenneth Tavener (born 28 January 1944) is a British composer, best known for such religious, minimal works as "The Whale", and "Funeral Ikos". He began as a prodigy; in 1968, at the age of 24, he was described by the Guardian as "the musical discovery of the year", while The Times said he was "among the very best creative talents of his generation." During his career he has become one of the best known and regarded composers of his generation. Tavener was knighted in 2000 for his services to music and has won an Ivor Novello Award.
John Kenneth Tavener was born on 28 January 1944 in Wembley, London, England, and claims to be a direct descendant of the 16th-century composer John Taverner. He was educated at Highgate School (where a fellow pupil was John Rutter) and at the Royal Academy of Music, where his tutors included Sir Lennox Berkeley. He first came to prominence in 1968 with his dramatic cantata The Whale, based on the Old Testament story of Jonah. It was premièred at the London Sinfonietta's début concert and later recorded by Apple Records. The following year he began teaching at Trinity College of Music, London. Other works released by Apple included his Celtic Requiem. In 1977, he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Orthodox theology and Orthodox liturgical traditions became a major influence on his work. He was particularly drawn to its mysticism, studying and setting to music the writings of Church Fathers and completing a setting of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, the principal eucharistic liturgy of the Orthodox Church.
One of Tavener's most popular and frequently performed works is his short unaccompanied four-part choral setting of William Blake's The Lamb, written for his nephew Simon on his third birthday one afternoon in 1982. This simple, homophonic piece is usually performed as a Christmas carol. More important, however, were his explorations of Russian and Greek culture, as shown in "Akhmatova Requiem" and "Sixteen Haiku of Seferis". Later prominent works include The Akathist of Thanksgiving (1987, written in celebration of the millennium of the Russian Orthodox Church); The Protecting Veil (first performed by cellist Steven Isserlis and the London Symphony Orchestra at the 1989 Proms); and Song for Athene (1993, performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997). Following Diana's death he also composed and dedicated to her memory the piece Eternity's Sunrise, based on poetry by William Blake.
It has been reported, particularly in the British press, that Tavener left Orthodox Christianity to explore a number of other different religious traditions, including Hinduism and Islam, and became a follower of the mystic philosopher Frithjof Schuon. While he has in recent years incorporated elements of non-Western music into his compositions, Tavener remains an Orthodox Christian, at least in form. In an interview with the New York Times, Tavener appeared to challenge the belief that he was no longer Orthodox. He said: "I reached a point where everything I wrote was terribly austere and hidebound by the tonal system of the Orthodox Church, and I felt the need, in my music at least, to become more universalist: to take in other colors, other languages.". The interview also reports that he "hasn’t abandoned Orthodoxy. He remains devotedly Christian." 
In 2003 he composed the exceptionally large work The Veil of the Temple (which was premièred at the Temple Church, Fleet Street, London), based on texts from a number of religions. It is set for four choirs, several orchestras and soloists and lasts at least seven hours. The 2004 première of his piece Prayer of the Heart written for and performed by Björk, was featured on CD and incorporated as the soundtrack to Jake Lever's installation Centre + Circumference (2008, Wallspace, All Hallows on the Wall, City of London).
In the second television series of Sacred Music, broadcast in the UK on BBC Four on Friday 2 April 2010, Tavener described himself as "essentially Orthodox".
While Tavener's earlier music was influenced by Igor Stravinsky and, to a lesser extent, Olivier Messiaen, often invoking the sound world of Stravinsky's Requiem Canticles and A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer and the ecstatic quality found in various works by Messiaen, his later music became more sparse, using wide registral space and was usually diatonically tonal. Some commentators see a similarity with the works of Arvo Pärt, from their common religious tradition to the technical details of phrase lengths, diatonicism and colouristic percussion effects.
Tavener's more recent music has moved away from the transparent simplicity of the 1980s towards a much more harmonically saturated style, in parallel with his pan-religious interests. Such works as Atma Mass (2003) and Requiem (2008) show this particularly well.
Tavener has suffered from considerable problems with his health. He had a stroke in his thirties, heart surgery and a tumour removed in his forties, and suffered two successive heart attacks which have left him very frail. He has Marfan syndrome. His wife, Maryanna, broadcast a charity appeal on BBC Radio 4 in October 2008 on behalf of the Marfan Trust.
1969 - The Whale premièred by the London Sinfonietta and subsequently recorded on The Beatles' Apple label.
1971 - Celtic Requiem recorded by Apple.
1973 - Thérèse, the story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, commissioned by the Royal Opera, London.
1989 - première of The Protecting Veil at the Proms in London.
2000 - première of Fall and Resurrection in St Paul's Cathedral, London (4 January 2000).
2000 - received a knighthood in Millennium Honours List.
2001 - composed the soundtrack of Werner Herzog's short documentary Pilgrimage.
2003 - première of the all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple by the Holst Singers and the Choir of the Temple Church at the Temple Church, London.
2005 - première of Laila (Amu), Tavener’s first dance collaboration, with Random Dance company and Wayne McGregor's choreography.
2006 - contributed Fragments of a Prayer to the Alfonso Cuarón film Children of Men.
2007 - première of The Beautiful Names by the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra at Westminster Cathedral. The work, sung in Arabic, is a setting of the 99 names of Allah found in the Qur'an. Awarded honorary degree by the University of Winchester.
2008 - World premièr of "the anthem" sung in St Paul's Cathedral in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
March 2009 - The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia presents the world première of Tu ne sais pas, a work for mezzo-soprano, timpani, and strings. Katherine Pracht will sing the texts, which are drawn from poems by French poet Jean Biès, (one of the work's dedicatees), and from Islamic and Hindu sources.
The Whale (1966; soloists, speaker, SATB choir, children's choir, orchestra)
Celtic Requiem (1969; soprano solo, SATB choir, children's choir, ensemble)
Thérèse, opera, 1973
The Protecting Veil (1988; cello, strings)
Mary of Egypt, opera, 1991
Ikon of the Nativity (1991; SATB choir, a cappella)
Song for Athene (1993; SATB choir)
Fall and Resurrection (2000) (Dedicated to The Prince of Wales)
Lamentations and Praises (2001; 12 male voices, string quartet, flute, bass trombone, percussion)
The Veil of the Temple (2002; soprano, SATB choir, boys' choir, ensemble)
Schuon Lieder (2003; soprano, ensemble)
Laila (Amu) (2004; soprano, tenor, orchestra)
Lament for Jerusalem (2006; soprano, countertenor, SATB choir, orchestra)
Towards Silence (2009; 4 string quartets, Tibetan temple bowl)