• John Tavener
  • Petra (1996)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • singing string ensemble (7 players)
  • baritone
  • 15 min
  • Seferis
  • Greek

Programme Note

This work was commissioned by Lucy Bailey and The Gogmagogs. It was first performed by The Gogmagogs at the Aldeburgh Festival on 21st June 1997.

Having in our own minds desanctified ourselves, we have also desanctified the natural world in our minds....This self-image and world view have their origin in our loss of memory, in our forgetfulness of who we are, and in our fall to a level of ignorance and stupidity that threatens the survival of our race.

Πέιρα - the Greek word means stone or rock - is an act of recollection that came to me in a half-waking state. It is an attempt to see the human race as sacred beings, even as semi-divine beings, not in our own right, but because we are created in the divine image, in the image of God. We should look upon every part of the cosmos as sacred, but we have forgotten, hence the nostalgia and sense of loss held within the sacred in Seferis' poetry.

Gradually, the transcendent becomes inseparable. It builds throughout, in the transcendent figure of the violin harmonics, the repeated Πέιρα, Πέιροσ, I build' sections and in a rising figure which eventually becomes 'Ανέσιή' (Risen), sung by all the members of the group. 'Risen, Rise, Rise....Yes the whole of nature, but 'we who on our feet are dying' have forgotten.

John Tavener