• John Tavener
  • Tribute to Cavafy (1999)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • narrator and percussion
  • SATB
  • Soprano
  • 40 min

Programme Note

This work is an intuitive response to the Graeco-Alexandrian world of the great Greek poet, Cavafy. There are seven sections, of which the first and last are identical – a setting of Meres Toύ 1903 (Days of 1903) in the original Greek.

The speaker (preferably male) has a vital part, declaiming Philip Sherrard and Edmund Keeley’s wonderful translations in four of the sections. He must convey the magnificence and grandeur appropriate to Epic Tragedy, particularly in The God Abandons Antony, Voices and Ithaka. The God Abandons Antony and Ithaka are two of Cavafy’s greatest poems, and they stand on either side of Voices, which takes on a sacred character, declaiming first the heroes of Cavafy’s art, and later the genealogy of Christ, leading to verses from St Gregory Nazianzen, a Greek Patristic writer deeply loved by Cavafy.

The music is at once tragic, grand and solemn, with a deep lyrical pathos. Movement of the singers for The God Abandons Anthony and Ithaka should be achieved with the least interruption possible: the speaker should stand among the main choir, with a separate group singing from a distance. The bells and Tibetan temple bowl may be played by members of the choir.