In Prayer Of The Heart, the text of the Eastern Orthodox monastic prayer -- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy upon me – is sung in a mantra-like way in English, Greek and Coptic while a slow recording of a human heartbeat plays. The singer is instructed to ‘sit on a low stool, bowing towards the heart’ and may play the bell and bowl. The piece slowly explores the entire circle of fifths, beginning in the key of C and playing each related minor and moving to the related dominant key, then repeating until the return to C. It is a profoundly meditative work.
The work was originally composed for Icelandic singer Björk and the Brodsky Quartet, to benefit the charity The Chain of Hope. It was recorded by the original performers.
John Tavener was that rare creature, a composer of serious music and serious religious music, who had also achieved commercial success. He burst into the popular consciousness with the performance of his Song for Athene at the funeral of Princess Diana, but had been a highly respected and frequently-performed composer since the premiere of his dramatic cantata The Whale in 1968.