Commissioned by the combined forces of Anonymous 4 and the London-based Chilingirian String Quartet, The Bridegroom is an ecstatic, mystical work imbued with slow-moving harmonies and radiant vocal textures. The work is based on the biblical parable of the wise and foolish virgins, in which ten virgins await a wedding feast. As the story goes, five virgins are prepared with enough oil for their lamps to greet the bridegroom's sudden arrival at midnight. The other five are not prepared and, without light, are barred from the wedding feast and cast out into darkness. In Tavener's own words, "The quartet of strings represents the Bridegroom and the female voices represents us, full of longing...The music should be almost unbearable in its ecstatic light, its endless melodic arch".
The Bridegroom had its world premiere in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in October 2000 as part of the South Bank Centre's Tavener Festival, Ikons of Light. Following concerts in Norway, the octet crossed the Atlantic to give the North American premiere in California, followed by several performances including the New York premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March 2001.
Anonymous 4's long-standing association with WNYC dates to 1999 when the station commissioned two works for the ensemble: Steve Reich's Know What is Above You, and Richard Einhorn's A Carnival of Miracles. Both were premiered in a New Sounds Live presentation at The Arts At St. Ann's in Brooklyn. Since then, the ensemble has given several live performances, including recent appearances on Soundcheck.
More about Anonymous 4 and the Chilingirian Quartet
Anonymous 4--Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner and Johanna Maria Rose--came together in 1986 as an experiment with the sounds of medieval chant and the polyphony of higher voices. The group's initial performance was a surprise success, and since then, Anonymous 4 has recorded extensively and has toured throughout the world. The bulk of the quartet's sound comes from published music stored in monastaries and abbeys from the Middle Ages. Anonymous 4 gets its name from an unknown 13th-century Englishman who, as a student in Paris, wrote about the vocal polyphony then being performed in Notre Dame's cathedral.
The Chilingirian Quartet formed in London in 1971 and gave its first concert in 1972. The quartet -- Levon Chilingirian, Charles Sewart, Asdis Valdimarsdottir and Philip De Groote -- has also toured the world and recorded many albums. The four players are now the quartet-in-residence at the Royal College of Music in London. The Chilingirian has a strong association with several contemporary British composers, Tavener in particular. Tavener wrote both his 2nd and 3rd string quartet compositions specifically for the group, and had them in mind for The Bridegroom.