Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Panikhida, Apolytikion for St. Nicholas - Tavener CD

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Performers: Europa Singers, Kastalsky Chamber Choir

Conductor: Clive Wearing, Ivan Moody

Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Panikhida, Apolytikion for St. Nicholas - Tavener CD

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Performers: Europa Singers, Kastalsky Chamber Choir
Conductor: Clive Wearing, Ivan Moody

Sir John Tavener's setting of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was written at the request of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh in 1977, the same year in which he was received into the Orthodox Church.

Tavener observed at the time "I am no musicologist, and am therefore steeped in Russian Orthodox liturgical music. I strongly dislike the sentimental nineteenth century harmonizations of Russian chant, so I decided to avoid "traditional" music altogether and compose and pray a Liturgy of my own". The result of this approach was a setting in large part monophonic, based on various permutations of a five-note cell, and sharing something of the sound world of earlier works by Tavener standing outside the Orthodox tradition, such as the Requiem for Father Malachy (1973), which itself was a breath of fresh air after the monumental Ultimas Ritos of a year earlier.

Russian music does indeed not play a large role in Tavener's Liturgy, with two exceptions: the Creed, which clearly refers to the traditional Russian style of "recitative" settings of the text: and the final "Mnogaya leta". Apart from this, one might perhaps detect glimpses of Greek chant in the drone and ornaments of "O Only begotten Son" and in the "Hosanna" of the Anaphora.

The Cherubic Hymn employs a remarkable canon in three parts, as far as I am aware unique in settings of this text, and a reminder of the experimental nature of the setting as a whole.

The Panikhida is also experimental, but, dating as it does from 1986, shows the profound effect that long acquaintance with Orthodox worship and liturgical music had meanwhile had upon his music. It was written in memory of the composer's mother, who died in 1985, and of Charlotte Long, an eighteen-year old actress who was tragically killed in a car accident.

The Panikhida (the orthodox office for the dead, for "those who have fallen asleep in the Lord") is celebrated liturgically in the centre of the church, in front of a movable stand upon which are placed a dish of koliva (boiled wheat mixed with honey) and a lighted taper, symbolic of burial and resurrection. Censing continues almost throughout the service.

Though Tavener's is the first setting to be made in English, (hence the composer's own description of it as "experimental"), it is in fact closely related to the traditional Russian sacred repertoire. This relationship is evident in the entire musical ethos of the setting, founded upon the basic Russian tone system and written in a simple, declamatory, chordal style. Chant in fact pervades Tavener's music (see for example the irmos of the sixth canticle of the Canon, "With Thy Saints Î Christ"), but the result is a combination of the spirit of chant with Tavener's own music to the point at which the one is indistinguishable from the other.

The composer requests that the music be sung "with great stillness, sobriety and tenderness, like a 'sacred lullaby'...the music must flow out of a profound stillness, and be sung prayerfully, with thought of the great calm in the Kingdom to come, with great sobriety and dignity".

1 Initial Blessing and Great Litany
2 First antiphon - Bless the Lord, O my soul and Little LitanY
3 Second antiphon - Praise the Lord O my soul and O Onfy-begotten Son
4 Third antiphon - The Beatitudes
5 The Little Entrance
6 The Trisagion
7 The Epistle (Philippians 4:4-7)
8 Alleluia with verses and the Gospel (Matthew 7:7-11)
9 Litany of Fervent Supplication
10 The Great Entrance - Cherubic Hymn
11 The Peace and the Creed
12 Anaphora - Mercy of Peace - We hymn Thee, we bless Thee - The Lord's Prayer and Elevation
13 The Communion: Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord and Receive ye the Body of Christ We have seen the true Light and Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise
14 Litany of Thanksgiving and Prayer before the Ambo - Blessed be the Name of the Lord
15 The Dismissal
16 Opening blessing and Litany
17 Alleluia and verses - Blessed are those whom Thou hast taken, O Lord
18 Troparia and refrain - Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes
19 Refrains and Irmos - Give rest, O Lord and Forasmuch as I behold the sea of life
20 Kontakion and Ikos for the Departed: With the Saints give rest
21 Trisagion prayers and The Lord's Prayer
22 Final troparia: With the spirits of the righteous
23 Litany
24 Conclusion
25 Apolytikion for St. Nicholas

Total Time: 73:10
Issue Date: 2000
World premiere recordings

Additional Information

Author John Tavener
Cover No

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