* Tavener one of Britain's most celebrated composers
* Music played at funeral of Princess Diana
* His work was inspired by his spirituality
(Adds details, quote from composer Rutter)
LONDON, Nov 12 John Tavener, one of Britain's
most celebrated composers whose music was played at the funeral
of Princess Diana, died at his home in southwest England on
Tuesday at the age of 69, his publisher said.
He was one of the few modern composers to gain a following
among non-classical audiences, with many people attracted to his
mysticism and spirituality.
Fellow composer John Rutter told the BBC that Tavener "was
touched by genius at every point.
"He could bring an audience to a deep silence which is a
very rare gift," Rutter said. "He believed that music was for
everybody and was a prayer."
Tavener studied at the Royal Academy of Music and spent five
decades composing. He first came to attention in 1968 for his
cantata "The Whale", which was later recorded on the Beatles'
He was best known for the classical chart-topper "The
Protecting Veil" and for his "Song for Athene" that was played
at Diana's funeral in 1997. His 2003 work "The Veil of the
Temple" lasts seven hours.
Much of his work was inspired by his spirituality after
joining the Russian Orthodox Church.
A striking, gaunt man who stood 6-foot-six-inches with
shoulder-length hair, Tavener expressed regret in later life for
having been photographed wearing monk's robes with religious
icons and candles in the background.
Plagued by poor health for much of his life, Tavener
suffered a stroke in his mid-30s and in 1990 was diagnosed with
Marfan Syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause heart
defects. He had a major heart attack in 2007.
James Rushton, managing director of Tavener's publisher
Chester Music, described him as a man of strong beliefs and
huge personal warmth, loyalty and humour.
"John Tavener was one of the unique and most inspired voices
in music of the last fifty years," Rushton said in a statement.
"His large body of work - dramatic, immediate, haunting,
remaining long in the memory of all who have heard it, and
always identifiably his - is one of the most significant
contributions to classical music in our times."
Tavener was knighted in 2000 for services to music.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
(Reporting By Shadi Bushra and Michael Roddy; Editing by
Belinda Goldsmith and Janet Lawrence)