Kyklike Kinesis, 1977, 45' Chorus and orchestra/ensemble
Palintropos, 1978, 24' Soloist and orchestra
Akhmatova Requiem, 1980, 50' Soloists and large ensemble
Mary of Egypt, 1991, 100' Opera
Akhmatova Songs, 1993, 20' Solo voice and small ensemble
The Myrrh-Bearer, 1993, 40' Chorus and orchestra/ensemble
A Gentle Spirit, 1997, 45' Opera
The Veil of the Temple, 2002, 7hrs Chorus and orchestra/ensemble
Tavener stated that he was a Western composer writing within the ethos and framework of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and despite his decades of spiritual evolution, it was still this ethos, which so favours tradition over innovation, that informed his composition until the end of his life. ‘Innovation’ denotes the invention of something entirely new and though Tavener’s own musical expression of a concept might be unique, it was for him essential that its inspiration originated somewhere far more profound than his own earthly experience.
On first entering an Orthodox church, he felt himself instantly at home, and was received into the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977. Orthodoxy was thenceforth inseparable from Tavener’s life and work. Following his conversion, he became increasingly convinced that music without a solid basis of tradition could not possibly express anything more than a contrivance of the human ego. If one approaches music as another language of the human soul, then it follows that music likewise requires a connection with something greater than itself. In the Orthodox musical tradition, this connection must be made through the system of eight tones, or sets of harmonised melodies, assigned to various services. In order to work within the tone system, a composer must renounce not only his training within other systems, but his own desire to fabricate entirely new constructions. These strictures are analogous to the painting of icons, which has by definition remained unchanged over its history; these works are not intended to express human emotion or thought unrelated to the divine.
During the first years following his conversion, Tavener withdrew almost totally from the world of contemporary music in an effort to assimilate his faith and access more enduring themes for expression in music. During this time, he became close friends with the painter Cecil Collins, who introduced Tavener to the works of the Sufi poet Rumi; and to the writings of Traditionalists and Universalists René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon, all of whom were to exert a significant influence on Tavener’s work over the subsequent decades.