2007 to 2013
The Death of Ivan Ilyich, 2012, 25' Soloist and orchestra
The Play of Krishna, Unfinished, Pantomime opera for narrator, soloists and orchestra
Following the completion of Towards Silence in 2007, John Tavener was taken seriously ill while attending rehearsals in Zürich. For several years he was far too weak to compose, save for a few short pieces, some of which were inspired by poets such as Shakespeare and Herbert, of whose work he was reading a great deal. Also during this period of convalescence, he listened to Beethoven and read Tolstoy, in particular the apocalyptic novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Then in late 2011 in a burst of creativity, he wrote a drama based on this story of physical suffering and temporary loss of faith, setting it tersely for baritone, solo cello, strings, timpani and trombones. There followed Monument for Beethoven, Requiem Fragments and a string quartet among many other works. Tavener returned to some of his earliest influences, including a love of Mozart’s The Magic Flute that inspired the unfinished The Play of Krishna.
At he time of his death, Tavener was working on a piece based on Saundarya Lahari, a 100-verse Sanskrit poem praising the goddess Parvati, consort of Shiva; on a work for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, exploring the nature of suffering and existence; for light relief, he was looking at Scottish folk material for choir and bells. Scotland became important for Tavener in the last years of his life, and perhaps his late period was inspired by its landscape in the way that works of the 1970s and 80s were inspired by Greece.