© Simone Cannety-Clarke
The Missa Solemnis
(Solemn Mass or High Mass) is one of the most important antecedents in Western music — it is closely associated with both the development of Western polyphony and the development of Western musical notation. This musical offering has been interpreted since its medieval beginnings; the earliest fragments of mass polyphony date from the 10th and 11th centuries.
For John Tavener, his interpretation of the Mass is unusual for its ecumenical nature. A deeply devout man, Tavener’s oeuvre has paralleled his spirituality as it has evolved from his conversion to the Orthodox Church in 1977 to his recent interest in the universalist philosophy of the late Swiss metaphysician Fritjhof Schuon, and the Advaita Vedanta (the Hindu doctrine of non-duality), which embraces all great religious traditions. As his life has been shaped by these influences, as well as “a life-long veneration and love of Mary,” this Mass, to Tavener, “seemed to be a commission sent from heaven.”
The work — Sollemnitas in Conceptione Immaculata Beatae Mariae Virginis,
which receives its US premiere on 7 March by the Saint Thomas Choir with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City — unites the complete text of the liturgy for the feast day of Mary with elements from Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, American Indian, German, Italian, poems by Fritjhof Schuon, and a line from Dante — to “express something of the Divine Effulgence of the Feminine that the Mother of God reveals to us.”
The Saint Thomas Choir is a co-commissioner of this work.
The Rubin Museum of Art has commissioned Tavener to create Toward Silence,
to be performed on 29 May in conjunction with the Brainwave festival — a collaborative cultural and scientific experience in New York City from January through May 2008. This event is a good fit for Tavener: throughout the festival, the organizers will delve into the workings of the mind by looking at art, music, and meditation, and how we can learn from these practices. The Rubin Museum, which concentrates on art from the Himalayan region, is certainly the ideal venue for this site-specific work, which commands the forces of four string quartets (led by the Medici Quartet) positioned on different floors of the galleries on and around the Rubin Museum’s stunning spiral staircase.
Sollemnitas in Conceptione Immaculata Beatae Mariae Virginis
tenor, 4basses, baritone, tenor, soprano, string quartet
org/4trp/3tbn/bstbn/timp/2perc(pow-wow drum, tibetan temple bowls, hand bells)/str(66442)