Kyklike Kinesis, 1977, 45' Chorus and orchestra/ensemble
Palintropos, 1978, 24' Soloist and orchestra
Though it was into the Russian Orthodox Church that Tavener was initiated in 1977, it was Greece and its own variant of Eastern Orthodoxy which played the more conspicuous role in his life and music. The landscape of Greece, to which Tavener returned countless times over the latter four decades of his life to reflect, worship, endure and write, provided a backdrop of profound beauty imbued with the aesthetic, philosophical and religious traditions of the culture that inhabits it. This culture offered writers, musicians, thinkers and clerics who enriched his life and were a steadying comfort.
Many of the authors and poets Tavener most admired — Kalvos, Seferis, Cavafy, Sikelianos, Solomos, Papadiamantis — were active over the past two or three centuries, yet they share the innate sense of tradition so central to Greek culture. Where Western Europe has been repeatedly riven by revolutions, Renaissances and Reformations, Greece has not accommodated — nor in the first place fomented — any such disruptions, leaving intact a lineage that can be traced to ancient civilisation and its enduring concepts. Where Western Europe has largely abandoned religion in favour of the worldly and egocentric, Orthdoxy in Greece remains a way of life as much as a belief. Whatever individuals’ ideas about their contemporary culture, there remains a deeply ingrained appreciation, even a reverence, for these bases of the culture as living principles.
Tavener believed that an accompanying familiarity with metaphysics allows Orthodox Christians to ‘read’ icons in a manner that directly opposes the cerebral dissection favoured by Western art criticism. An icon exists not to be evaluated but to communicate directly to the viewer the essence of the faith, and it is at this very fundamental level that Tavener believes Eastern and Western religious art — and values — diverge: as he expresses it, in the former, one starts with God and aspires toward the phenomenal world; in the latter it is the opposite.