Marienhymne is a piece on a smaller scale than Tavener’s dramatic cantatas, and is written for unaccompanied choir and semiChorus. Tavener was drawn to writer and philosopher Frithjof Schuon’s vision of the Virgin Mary as universal and primordial Woman and has used an extract from his work Maria as the libretto, in German, for this piece. The composer calls for ‘radiance and ecstasy’ and also a ‘great distance’ between the main choir and the echo choir.
John Tavener was that rare creature, a composer of serious music and serious religious music, who 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.