Sir John Tavener

Everyone involved with the London Sinfonietta was sad to hear of John Tavener’s death.  The 1968 world premiere of his piece The Whale – at our first ever concert – has become a central part of the story surrounding the beginnings of this ensemble.  Combined with subsequent commissions in the late 1960s, during the 70s and also in 2000, the London Sinfonietta feels justifiably proud to have been so closely associated with one of the most individual of British composers.  We all send our sincere condolences to his family.

Programme montage
Pages from the programme for our inaugural concert, featuring the world premiere of John Tavener’s The Whale. To see these pictures up close, take a look at our album on facebook.

“Back in 1967, when Nicholas Snowman and I were contemplating the programme for the London Sinfonietta’s inaugural concert of January 1968, we considered it extremely important to make a positive statement about the aims and aspirations of our fledgling organisation, one that would define its direction for years to come. Nicholas had been a schoolmate of a prodigiously talented teenager called John Tavener and gave me a manuscript of an unperformed piece by him suggesting that this might fit the bill. I was knocked out by the originality of the work and decided that, despite its costly demands and many impractical elements, we absolutely must perform The Whale.  After a phenomenally successful premiere and a repeat at the Proms, John and I visited Ringo Starr at his Hampstead mansion to help persuade him to record the work on the Apple label. The rest is history.

Other works were to follow, during the preparation of which it was my distinct privilege to spend countless days with John, enjoying his company, his infectious laugh and somewhat befuddled and disorganised genius. He was always a risk taker, a composer who would think the impossible, then achieve it. Simply, one of a kind who will be sorely missed.”

David Atherton
Co-founder of the London Sinfonietta and our first conductor

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