• John Tavener
  • Canticle of the Mother of God (1976)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Cantores in Ecclesia

  • Soprano
  • 13 min

Programme Note

Canticle of the Mother of God was conceived in Greece in 1976. The opening soprano stanza came to me as a melody, complete with its quarter tones.

I decided early on in the composition that the soprano soloists should sing in Hebrew and that the music of the "Hebrew Maid" should be decorative and melismatic. The chorus always answers antiphonally in block chords sung in ancient Greek, representing the hieratic nature of the language.

To some extent the Canticle is a reaction against the western Roman Catholic and Protestant settings of the Magnificent, resplendent master-pieces though many of them are. My setting is small in scale, liturgical in character; therefore I consider it closer to the "Pneuma" of the eastern orthodox tradition.

Canticle of the Mother of God was written to a commission from Cantores in Ecclesia who gave the first performance with Elise Ross (soprano), conducted by Michael Howard in Rye Parish Church during the Rye Spring Festival on 22 April 1977. It is dedicated with profound respect and love to Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.

John Tavener


Canticle of the Mother of God - Voice