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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Ikon of Light (1984)
Text Writer
St Simeon the New Theologian
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
41 Minutes
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Programme Note
John Tavener Ikon of Light (1984)
This work should unfold as a ritual in musical terms, attempting to express the inexpressible, i.e. 'uncreated light'. The Greek words (FOS) and (DOXA) mean light and glory. The Greeks had a natural inclination towards the 'luminous', hence the central role of the Transfiguration in the mysticism of the Orthodox Church. The string trio may be thought of as the soul 'yearning for God' and should be placed preferably in a gallery or somewhere similarly distanced from the singers. The central movement sets the remarkable Invocation to the Holy Spirit by St Symeon (942-1022), known as 'The New Theologian'. The Trisagion which occurs on either side of the Prayer means 'Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy Immortal, Have Mercy upon us' and is one of the most frequently used hymns of the Byzantine rite. Epifania which concludes the work literally means 'shining forth'.

Ikon of Light was commissioned by the Tallis Scholars with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. I am deeply indebted to Bishop Kallistos of Diokletia for his advice, to Dr. Elizabeth Briere for her transliteration of the Greek text and for her constant help.

John Tavener

  • Soloist(s)
  • Ensemble
    The Tallis Scholars / Chilingirian Quartet
    Peter Phillips / John Tavener, conductors
  • Ensemble
    Taverner Choir
    Jane Atkins, viola Claron McFadden, soprano Moray Welsh, cello
    Andrew Parrott
  • Ensemble
    The Sixteen / Duke Quartet
    Harry Christophers
" Tavener's setting makes an apparent virtue of simplicity."
George Hall, The Guardian,05/08/2014
“The calm, restrained majesty of it does funny things to your sense of time – the piece takes about 40 minutes, but when you surface from it, you feel as though hours has passed and yet you have barely shifted in your seat.”
Caroline Crampton, New Statesman,05/08/2014
"Ikon of Light was like a memory from a better world, or a hope of a better world to come."
Nick Breckenfield, Classical Source,04/08/2014
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