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To a Child Dancing in the Wind

John Tavener (b. 1944 - d. 2013)

Katharine Dain (photo credit: Arthur Moeller)

Katharine Dain (photo credit: Arthur Moeller)

Composer
John Tavener (b. 1944 - d. 2013)
Composition Year
1983
Work Movements
1. He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
2. The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water
3. To a Child Dancing in the Wind
4. Two Years Later
5. The Fiddler of Dooney
6. A Deep-sworn Vow
7. Sweet Dancer
8. The Stolen Child
9. He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
10. The Countess Cathleen in Paradise
Artists
Clíona Doris [harp], Lise Berthaud [viola], Juliette Bausor [flute], Katherine Dain [soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

 The frailty, tenderness and spiritual transparency of Yeats’ poetry inspired this song-cycle. In recent years, I have written little music that is not sacred or liturgical. The Yeats poems and the Seferis Haiku are exceptions, partly I think because both the Irish and Greek poets had a profound sense of the loss of the sacred and Primordial tradition in art. Also the music for both song-cycles has a quasi-liturgical atmosphere, indeed, the harp harmonics that link the Yeats songs are based on a Byzantine palindrome. John Tavener [1983]

The score also carries this dedication – For Victoria...’but these are private songs, addressed to you in public...’  Paraphrasing Eliot’s Dedication to my Wife, Tavener wrote this work for his first wife, Victoria Maragopoulou, a Greek dancer. She was only twenty two when he met her and was training at the Royal Ballet School. To Tavener’s great distress, the marriage lasted barely eight months, nonetheless they remained friends for years.

The poems Tavener chose reflect Yeats’ many romances, especially his long relationship with his great love, Maud Gonne, and, later, her daughter Iseult, for whom To a Child Dancing in the Wind and its sequel was written. This cycle of poems sings of the eternal themes of love sought and love lost, beauty and the passing of beauty, dancing and the glory of dancers and the terrible and inevitable loss of innocence to the monstrous crying of the wind. To open and close this song-cycle Tavener chooses Yeats’ evocative tapestry of starlight and its echoing repetitions, that ends with every lover’s cry to the beloved tread softly for you tread on my dreams. Despite the calming influence of the harp interludes, this work only partly hides a passionate love story that tells of a man troubled and haunted by his failure to win his beloved – Ah dancer, ah sweet dancer.

Despite the obviously deeply personal nature of these songs, Tavener does not entirely move away from his then habitual spiritual mode. The harp interludes act as a meditative and calming influence between each episode’s haunting sense of irrevocable and hopeless loss. At the very end, this sorrow at our loss makes the simple unaccompanied chant of The Countess Cathleen almost unbearably moving.

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To a Child Dancing in the Wind

Composer: John Tavener (b. 1944 - d. 2013)
Performance date: Monday 30th June 2014
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer John Tavener (b. 1944 - d. 2013)
Work Title To a Child Dancing in the Wind
Composition Year 1983
Work Movements 1. He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
2. The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water
3. To a Child Dancing in the Wind
4. Two Years Later
5. The Fiddler of Dooney
6. A Deep-sworn Vow
7. Sweet Dancer
8. The Stolen Child
9. He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
10. The Countess Cathleen in Paradise
Artist(s) Clíona Doris [harp], Lise Berthaud [viola], Juliette Bausor [flute], Katherine Dain [soprano]
Performance Date Monday 30th June 2014
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:27:04
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation S-solo, fl, va, hrp
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

 The frailty, tenderness and spiritual transparency of Yeats’ poetry inspired this song-cycle. In recent years, I have written little music that is not sacred or liturgical. The Yeats poems and the Seferis Haiku are exceptions, partly I think because both the Irish and Greek poets had a profound sense of the loss of the sacred and Primordial tradition in art. Also the music for both song-cycles has a quasi-liturgical atmosphere, indeed, the harp harmonics that link the Yeats songs are based on a Byzantine palindrome. John Tavener [1983]

The score also carries this dedication – For Victoria...’but these are private songs, addressed to you in public...’  Paraphrasing Eliot’s Dedication to my Wife, Tavener wrote this work for his first wife, Victoria Maragopoulou, a Greek dancer. She was only twenty two when he met her and was training at the Royal Ballet School. To Tavener’s great distress, the marriage lasted barely eight months, nonetheless they remained friends for years.

The poems Tavener chose reflect Yeats’ many romances, especially his long relationship with his great love, Maud Gonne, and, later, her daughter Iseult, for whom To a Child Dancing in the Wind and its sequel was written. This cycle of poems sings of the eternal themes of love sought and love lost, beauty and the passing of beauty, dancing and the glory of dancers and the terrible and inevitable loss of innocence to the monstrous crying of the wind. To open and close this song-cycle Tavener chooses Yeats’ evocative tapestry of starlight and its echoing repetitions, that ends with every lover’s cry to the beloved tread softly for you tread on my dreams. Despite the calming influence of the harp interludes, this work only partly hides a passionate love story that tells of a man troubled and haunted by his failure to win his beloved – Ah dancer, ah sweet dancer.

Despite the obviously deeply personal nature of these songs, Tavener does not entirely move away from his then habitual spiritual mode. The harp interludes act as a meditative and calming influence between each episode’s haunting sense of irrevocable and hopeless loss. At the very end, this sorrow at our loss makes the simple unaccompanied chant of The Countess Cathleen almost unbearably moving.