Voices from Russia

Monday, 25 November 2013

John Tavener: An Obituary

00 Requiescat in Pace. 19.11.12

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John Tavener, born on 28 January 1944, one of the leading composers of his generation, died on 12 November, aged 69. Tavener’s music underwent a transformation. In his youth, when he had something of the playboy image about him, the Beatles championed him, but his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy led him to write works that were contemplative and spiritual by nature. Like many composers, Tavener’s career had its highs and lows. The première of his rhapsody for cello and strings, The Protecting Veil, at the Promenade concerts in 1989 became one of the best-selling classical recordings ever. However, that was only nine years after a requiem he wrote, based on poems about the victims of Stalin, provoked a steady stream of people to head for the exit at the Royal Albert Hall at the Proms.

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Tavener was an instantly-recognisable figure. At 6ft 6in, he sported shoulder-length, blond hair and had skin like parchment. Sadly, he suffered ill-health throughout his adult life. As a child, he learned to play the piano without formal tuition. He spent his summer holidays in Sussex, where at the age of 12 he went to Glyndebourne and heard Stravinsky’s Canticum Sacrum ad honorem Sancti Marci Nominis (Canticle to Honour the Name of St Mark), which he regarded as the pinnacle of 20th-century music, “The piece woke me up and made me want to be a composer”.

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From 1962, he attended the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied composition under Lennox Berkeley. He first came to prominence with an oratorio, The Whale, based on the biblical story of Jonah. It had its first performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1968 during the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta. The work required eight percussionists, who had to move between drums, bells, gongs, a football rattle, and amplified metronomes. For five minutes, the score allowed the musicians to play whatever they wanted. This captivated the Beatles’ drummer, Ringo Starr, and his colleague, John Lennon, arranged for its recording on the group’s record label, Apple.

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Tavener joined the Orthodox Church in 1977. He wanted to write an accompaniment to an eighth-century liturgical poem, but first he had to get permission from one of the translators, Mother Thekla, the abbess of a Greek Orthodox monastery in North Yorkshire. In time, she provided the libretti of several of his works. On his 50th birthday in 1994, the BBC devoted four days to a festival of Tavener’s works, transmitted from Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, and the Barbican. In 1997, his Song for Athene was part of the Westminster Abbey funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. One of his short works débuted in the Millennium Dome on New Year’s Eve, 1999; a larger scale oratorio, dedicated to the Prince of Wales, received its first performance in St Paul’s Cathedral in 2000.

25 November 2013

Richard Anthony Baker

The Stage

http://www.thestage.co.uk/features/obituaries/2013/11/john-tavener/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=john-tavener

 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Prohibition Ordered For Russian Olympic Village in London

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The organisers of the Russian House hospitality centre in London will have to entertain Olympics guests minus vodka at every event where Russian athletes are present. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Kozak, who’s the head of the Russian delegation to London, made the decision at an official meeting. The government decree concerns events run by the Russian Olympic Committee, the Sochi-2014 Organisation Committee, the all-Russia Summer Sports Association, and Bosco di Ciliegi, the company that provides Team Russia’s sports kits. Kozak’s spokesman Ilya Dzhus confirmed the new rules to Kommersant, saying, “Olympic values are incompatible with drinking alcohol”.

Four Houses, No Alcohol

Four Russian hospitality houses will be open in London. The Russian Olympics Committee and Sochi-2014 will be in Russia’s Sochi Park opposite Royal Albert Hall close to Hyde Park. The Russian Olympics Committee will toast Russian winners at their headquarters in Sochi Park, but the committee doesn’t plan on buying an alcohol license for the headquarters, a spokesman told Kommersant. The Sochi-2014 Organisation Committee’s venue will host presentations of Sochi as Winter Olympics Capital, and they won’t sell any alcohol either. Bosco di Ciliegi will be working with Russia’s Sochi Park, and no one knows yet whether they’ll sell liquor at events where there are no athletes present. Sources said told us that the all-Russia Summer Sports Association, headed by Novolipetsk Steel owner Vladimir Lisin, could set up camp at 50 St James Street, one of London’s most luxurious restaurants.

No Drinks For Athletes

However, one of the federal officials who took part in Dmitri Kozak’s meeting argued that Russian House organisers could hold parties with alcohol for corporate sponsors, but without the participation of athletes and members of official delegations. The Sport Ministry develops a set of rules for athletes and coaches before every Olympics, and usually there’s a directive about abstaining from night-time parties and alcohol. An unnamed source at the Ministry told Kommersant, “The athletes themselves are keen on this, but sometimes there are sponsors that insist that the athletes follow their conditions to the letter, including being present at parties with alcohol”.

Former Glories

The authorities took this on-the-wagon approach after Russia received much criticism at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, where its failure in the competition was framed by reports of loud parties in the Russian House hospitality centre. At that competition, Russia won a total of 15 medals instead of expected 30-50, and the head of the Russian Olympics Committee, Leonid Tyagachyov, was fired after then-prime minister Vladimir Putin demanded that measures be taken. For example, Rosneft’s parties had two mock gas pumps dispensing vodka and whiskey. In Vancouver, Russian Standard vodka was available to all the guests, participants and organisers of the Olympics in the Russian House, the company’s press-release said at the time. Russian House at the Vancouver Olympics attracted long queues, and the Prince of Monaco and “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky visited it. At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Where else in Vancouver can you go to see a human jump-rope, taste-test five varieties of Ukrainian vodka, and schmooze with the Prince of Monaco?”

21 May 2012

Yevgeniya Chaykovskaya

The Moscow News

http://themoscownews.com/sports/20120521/189750048.html

Editor’s Note:

“Dry” and “Russian”… one of these things is NOT like the other… none of these things is kinda the same! The WORD came down from above, and like all good Russians, they’re all QUITE obedient to the Centre. However… if they can get away with it… we’re talkin’ about the original artful dodgers (The Inspector General and Ostap Bender, anyone?)… there’s going to be some creative “manipulation” and “interpretation” of the rules when VVP ain’t around. Trust me, VVP IS going to go to London, and he’s going to be the host at some of the events. No doubt, they’ll be “dry” (at least officially and publicly) when he’s present. As for the other times, “Russians aren’t Germans”… need I say more?

BMD

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