The Protecting Veil

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The Protecting Veil is a late 20th-century classical composition for cello and strings by British composer John Tavener. It was on the short list of nominees for the 1992 Mercury Prize.

Composition history[edit]

Completed in 1988, the work was begun in response to a request from cellist Steven Isserlis for a short (10-minute) piece.[1] It soon developed into a more substantial work, and was subsequently commissioned by the BBC for the 1989 Proms season. Like many of Tavener's compositions, this work reflects the composer's Russian Orthodox religious faith. The inspiration for the piece comes from the Orthodox feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, which commemorates the apparition of Mary the Theotokos in the early 10th Century at the Blachernae Palace church in Constantinople.


The composition, which has a performance time of approximately 45 minutes, is divided into eight sections, each of which is based on an icon in the life of the Virgin Mary:[2]

  1. The Protecting Veil
  2. The Nativity of the Mother of God
  3. The Annunciation
  4. The Incarnation
  5. The Lament of the Mother of God at the Cross
  6. The Resurrection
  7. The Dormition
  8. The Protecting Veil

The Protecting Veil was the subject of BBC Radio 3's Discovering Music programme in June 2008.[3]


  1. ^ BBC Radio 3's Radio 3 Live in Concert program (broadcast 18 April 2014)
  2. ^ John Tavener official website. Accessed 21 March 2013
  3. ^ BBC Radio 3: Discovering Music - Tavener: The Protecting Veil. Accessed 21 March 2013

External links[edit]