Saturday, 16 November 2013

John Tavener

I was saddened to read of the death of the composer John Tavener this week. Of his music, what most impressed me was his dramatic cantata, The Whale, which has to be heard to be believed! It's still my favourite, along with the Celtic Requiem (Requiem for Jenny Jones). These early pieces made a deep impression on me - one which remains.

I met him once or twice around 1980. I'd just left university at the time and, inspired by The Whale, I had plans to study composition with him. Unfortunately, as they say, life is what happens to you while you're making plans, and it turned out this particular plan didn't come off. I have memories of a kind, attentive man who really sought to encourage me, a scruffy, disorganised young man with a tendency to b.o. and whose clothes had obviously shrunk in the wash. He was also the only person -to date- to offer me a lift in a Rolls Royce.




This post is one of a series on post-WWII British Composers. Click on the British Composers label to read them all.

12 comments:

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Dominic,
being not well versed in music, I listened to Sir Tavener's The Lamb, like it very much - thank you for the tip!
Plans that do not realize: isn't there time left? (Sometimes not as much as one likes to think - Tavener was not that old). I mean: one mustn't become a famous composer (or writer) to be a happy composer (or writer)...
As an afficionado of beautiful cars I might (if I were disposed to, but I'm not) envy you the lift in the Rolls Royce :-)

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for that. "One mustn't become a famous composer (or writer) to be a happy composer (or writer)..." Absolutely. And it doesn't have to be "great" music. I think it's a shame there isn't more emphasis on composition in music education.

I do write pieces from time to time - but only when I see an opportunity to get a piece played. For example:

http://dominicrivron.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/clarinet-trio_28.html

The Solitary Walker said...

That's one hell of a story, Dominic!

George said...

A very interesting story, Dominic. I don't know much about Tavener, but "The Whale" is absolutely stunning and fascinating!

am said...

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn about John Tavener and listen to The Whale and your Clarinet Trio, both of which were good to hear today. I am one who enjoys taking the time to listen to music linked to on the blogs I read (-:

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

SW: I suppose it is. Life in my 20s was very chaotic. We were living in one room at the time. I'd just started a new job. It was the beginning of a 20 year period (although I didn't know it at the time) in which music took a back seat.

George: It is stunning, isn't it? JT was the only "avant-garde" composer to be signed up by the Apple record label. I think nostalgia can be self-indulgent and not get one very far, but I do have a nostalgia for those days when anything seemed possible in the musical world.

am: Thank you for taking the time. I aspire to being a "slow blogger" (as they say) too. Not speed reading, following links, listening to or watching videos, etc.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Don't give up hope on the Rolls, there is plenty of time left.

Jenny Woolf said...

One of the true originals, I think, and managed to make quite difficult (to the ordinary person) music popular.

patteran said...

A nice story, Dominic. Did you take the lift? You did better out of your encounter than I did from my much briefer one. I was at a birthday lunch in a Greek restaurant in Soho and he was at the next table. When in a state of advanced refreshment I began to play (loosely speaking) a bouzouki that was to hand, he moved to a table near the window.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

WG: Neither hoping nor not hoping. I don't have a Top Gear-type nerve in my body.

JW: Yes - that's a good way of looking at it.

patteran: Yes I did. Perhaps you inspired him! The performer in this video of a Tavener piece said "The score has some impossible chords which are directed to be played Rasguerdo...like a bazouki or a balalaika. I thought tremolo sounded more balalaika-like."

http://youtu.be/ZHbgjpklOU0

Alan Burnett said...

Joe Kagan once offered my a lift in his Rolls but he was in no way as musical or as respectable as Tavener. The idea of a whale wearing a Gannex Mac is strangely attractive however.

Dominic Rivron said...

AB: Funny you should mention him! He had a lot to do with your neck of the woods, didn't he?

I once went to the Lake District to stay in a cottage with some friends. It turned out that the "cottage" was half of a country house. It belonged to Joe Kagan. The walls of the staircase were lined with framed cartoons lampooning him (mostly by Mac and his like) - evidence, were it needed, that satire is a form of flattery.