Sacred Music: Górecki & Tavener

Sacred Music: Górecki & Tavener

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Henryk Górecki and John Tavener, two Chester Music composers, feature in two episodes of the BBC Four Series Sacred Music. The programmes are presented by Simon Russell Beale and the music is explored by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers.

Watch the series with BBC iPlayer on your favourite device

Sacred Music, Series 2, Episode 3
Music in Poland, featuring Henryk Górecki

Sacred Music, Series 2, Episode 4
Explore the Christian music of our nation, including music by John Tavener

Sacred Music, Series 2, Episode 3
March 26, 7.30-8.30pm, BBC FOUR
Watch the series with BBC iPlayer on your favourite device
Producer & Director, Simon Broughton; Series Producer, Helen Mansfield

In the penultimate programme in the series, Simon Russell Beale visits Poland and Estonia to discover
why the music of two highly spiritual composers -
Henryk Górecki and Arvo Pärt - strikes such a chord in today's noisy and secular world. To illustrate music performed by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, Simon's journey takes him through the turbulent political and religious history of Eastern Europe as he explores the role of sacred music in the struggle against Communism.

In Tallinn, where Arvo Pärt has now returned after 25 years in exile, Simon is granted a rare interview by this reclusive composer who talks vividly about the process of refining his musical language at the time of Tabula Rasa, probably his most popular piece. Simon also attends the vast Estonian Song Celebration, held every five years, with a huge choir of 35,000 people and an audience of 100,000.

Górecki, in 1992, became the world's fastest selling classical composer thanks to Dawn Upshaw's recording of his Symphony No 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Simon meets Adrian Thomas, a specialist in the music of Górecki, and, in Poland, travels to Krakow and Katowice, down a salt-mine and up into the Tatra mountains to explore the story behind Górecki's powerful music. Featured music includes Górecki's Miserere, Totus Tuus and Salve, Sidus Polonorum and Pärt's Credo, Passio, Kanon Pokajanen and The Deers Cry, a recent piece from 2007.

Sacred Music, Series 2, Episode 4, SEARCHING OUT THE SACRED
Friday 2 April, 7-8pm, BBC FOUR
Watch the series with BBC iPlayer on your favourite device
Producer & Director, Andy King-Dabbs; Series Producer, Helen Mansfield

In this final programme, Simon Russell Beale returns to the UK to explore how three very different musical approaches to Christian music have captured the spiritual imagination of our nation. Three composers - James MacMillan, John Tavener (above, with Simon Russell Beale) and John Rutter - provide a special insight into the challenges and rewards of writing sacred music for the 21st century and, through a series of in-depth interviews with each composer, Simon explores both the creative process of composition and the intentions behind their music.

James MacMillan is a devout Roman Catholic for whom the very act of composing music is itself an affirmation of his faith. There's a chance to see him at the piano in the act of composition and to watch him at work with the monks at Douai Abbey and with the amateur singers at his local church choir in Glasgow. Selections include A Child's Prayer, created in memory of the Dunblane massacre and a setting of the text O bone Jesu.

John Rutter is probably the best known of any living composer of sacred music, and also the most commercially successful. Simon sets out to discover what it is about his music, from the Shepherd's Pipe Carol to his Hymn to the Creator of Light, which has captured the sprit of our times. In a wide-ranging interview the composer talks frankly about his love for the Anglican tradition, his musical roots and his own, perhaps surprising, agnostic position.

And finally, Simon meets John Tavener in an interview in which the distinguished composer is clear about his faith, his inspiration and the deepest roots of his musical development as he delved deep into the mysteries of Byzantium, mysticism and Buddhism. Tavener is still an imposing and authoritative figure and the programme includes performances of Song for Athene and The Lamb.
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