Funeral Ikos

John Tavener

Funeral Ikos

About this work

The great British composer Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976) mentioned the younger composer John Tavener approvingly as representing a new generation of composer that was rejecting the then-current avant-garde's rejection of the past. "He, and many others, adore the past and build on the past," Britten said.

Tavener's quest for eternal value led him to convert to Russian Orthodoxy in 1977, and much of his music since then has reflected its musical and rituals and those of the Byzantine Church from which it sprang. His Funeral Ikos, for six-part vocal ensemble, uses Byzantine church modes and Renaissance polyphony (as well as other imitative forms such as canons) to create reflection, meditation, and a sense of stillness. The melody is chantlike, ending with a many-voiced chordal statement. The text consists of the Greek Church's funeral sentences, translated into English by Isabel Hapgood.