Tavener and the Cello

Classical Academy | Orchestral Music | Composers 


The Guardian's 'musical discovery of the year' in 1968 was none other than a 24-year old Sir John Tavener. The acclaimed British composer, one of the most talented of his generation, is best known to many through his unaccompanied four-part choral setting of William Blake's poem The Lamb. Particularly drawn to mysticism and as a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, his work often draws on these themes and creates an eerie, spellbinding atmosphere.


An instrument ideally adapted to producing the tonal qualities favoured by Tavener, the cello features prominantly in many of his key works. One of these, The Protecting Veil for cello and strings, arose in fact from the suggestion of a cellist, Steven Isselis. Commissioned by the BBC for the 1989 Proms season, the piece is inspired by an Orthodox Feast of the same name that commemorates the apparition of Mary the Theotokos in the early 10th century at a church in Constantinople.


Tavener's Eternal Memory for cello is a meditation on the remembrance of death. Beginning with a remembrance of Paradise Lost, Tavener describes how "the final section looks forward to the unknown paradise promised to us, yet to come so, in spite of the ephemeral section, Paradise persists, even though we do not know what it is".


Enjoy this collection of three beautiful Tavener works for cello, including The Protecting Veil and Eternal Memory.