• John Tavener
  • Kyklike Kinesis (1977)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta

  • 0101(cbn)1110timp.percpfstr(1.1.1.1.1)
  • SATB
  • soprano, cello
  • 45 min

Programme Note

Kyklike Kinesis was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was written in Greece and is dedicated to Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, His Grace, Archbishop Anthony Bloom of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London. The first performance took place on 8 March 1978 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. The London Sinfonietta was conducted by Simon Rattle with Elise Ross (soprano) and Christopher Van Kampen (cello).

The title Kyklike Kinesis literally means circular movement but to the Early Desert Fathers it also means a circular movement bringing the soul back to God. The work is scored for solo soprano, solo cello, small chorus, oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, piano, percussion and string quartet. It is in four main sections each with a Greek title which reflects the intermediate spiritual states leading to Deification.

The opening soprano stanza came to me complete as a melody, with its micro-tones, and the whole of Kyklike Kinesis derives from this opening phrase. The soprano solo sings the Song of Mary in Hebrew, while the chorus answer her with block chords sung in modern Greek. In the second movement, the cello becomes the soloist, representing the soul setting out on its hazardous journey, in which at one point the timpani hammer out the opening phrase of the whole work in a distorted context. Briefly, the third movement contrasts very simply the two ways of the spiritual life, the ‘meditative’ and the ‘practical’. Musically, a simple A-B-A formula is used, a calm slow moving music for ‘A’ and a somewhat strenuous splutter of notes for ‘B’. In the last movement, the cello solo echoes the Song of Mary while the choir and the instrumental ensemble recall in a canon the block chords of the first movement which come closer and closer together until they eventually meet and the work ends as it began on a unison note B.

The implication of this final canon, and the fact that the choir sounds from around the audience, is that Deification is not something extraordinary but a natural spiritual progression offered to all. Unlike the remote Gods of Ancient Greece, the Christian idea of Deification cannot be considered without the image of the Infant Christ in his Mother’s arms, at once mysterious but also infinitely simple, infinitely frail and infinitely vulnerable.

John Tavener
1978

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