Composer Sir John Tavener dead at 69

BY newsdesk  November 12, 2013 at 3:50 PM EDT

Photo by Devlin Crow

Sir John Tavener, the longtime British composer known for his religious works, died at the age of 69 at his home in southern England Tuesday. Tavener suffered from ill health, including a major heart attack in 2007.

One of the classical composer’s first career highlights was recording “The Whale” on The Beatles’ Apple label in 1968. It wasn’t until years later that Tavener acquired more widespread fame – in the 1990s, “The Protecting Veil” topped the classical charts in and Tavener’s “Song For Athene” was played at the funeral of Princess Diana. Tavener was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 1992 and 1997. He was knighted in 2000. In an interview just before his death Tavener told BBC Radio that after his near-death experience in 2007 he no longer had a sense of music. “Music and believing in God has always gone together,” he said. “And it was only after being nursed by my wife back into some state of health that the music and a different type of faith began to come back.”

Another one of Tavener’s well known works was the setting of William Blake’s poem, “The Lamb.” Listen to a recording by the King’s College Choir in Cambridge.