Three Holy Sonnets


I wrote the Three Holy Sonnets of John Donne between the ages of fifteen and eighteen.   They were written in response to the death of my Grandmother, and represent the first in a long series of works inspired by death from this piece right up to Towards Silence.   I feel close to these early pieces as I do towards the very late pieces  – for instance there is more in common between the working processes in the Three Holy Sonnets and Towards Silence than there is in the more famous The Whale.   There is a similar austerity in dispensing with the inessentials in both pieces and they count as among my favourite works.   The austerity breaks through though in other works like the deeply ascetic Prayer for the World and the Akhamatova Requiem.  I think this quality of austerity is as much part of the persona of my music as is the more celebrated flamboyance.  Stravinsky once looked at the score of the Three Holy Sonnets and wrote ambiguously on the score ‘I know’.


This is one of Tavener’s favourite CDs

Iero Oneiro includes the premier recording of The Donne Sonnets

Southern Icelandic Chamber Choir, 2010