Commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra on the occasion of the Orchestra's Centennial

  • 2222/4440/4 Tibetan Temple Bowls (2lrg,1med,1sml)/4 lrg tamtams/3 dholaks/str
  • SATB
  • soprano, baritone, violin
  • 1 hr 10 min
  • Traditional
  • Greek, Sanskrit

Programme Note

It was with the thoughts and sayings of the Holy Fathers, and of the Hindu scriptures, that I contemplated the work. What began as a piece of music for violin and orchestra ended up as Ikon of Eros, for solo violin, orchestra and choir. The choir acts like a Greek chorus, singing at some distance from the other performers: they sing key words in Greek: Metemorphóthes (Transfigured), Éros (Divine love), Ékstasis (Ecstasy), and Allilúia (the unending song of the Angels).

The invocation in Sanskrit in the third movement, sung by a solo baritone, translates:
Purified, O Soma, by drops, thou movest concealed in the waters; rich in treasure thou residest in the womb of the sacrifice, a golden fount divine.

The solo singers may be taken from choir, if suitable voices are available. The soprano and baritone in the third movement should be trained by an Indian master, and the tenor in the last movement by a Greek Psaltis.

The brass instruments represent God the Father, the strings, God the son, and the woodwind, God the Holy Spirit. The solo violin, which plays almost continuously, represents Divine Eros itself (common in its deepest sense to all religious traditions), and also our longing for God, and His longing for us. It should play form high up, above the main group.

The layout of the performers will vary according to the building, but it should be in Trinitarian form, ideally shaped like a pyramid with the solo violin at the pinnacle, or at least above the orchestra.

The music should be played in a resonant acoustic, with plenty of space to emphasise the musical symbolism and metaphysics. Unlike Western Art Music, Ikon of Eros succeeds or fails, as does all traditional and sacred art, and all sacred music of the East, by its ability to create an inner spiritual state.

John Tavener


Ikon of Eros: I. —
Ikon of Eros: II. —
Ikon of Eros: III. —
Ikon of Eros: IV. —