LONDON (Reuters) - 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 age 69, his publisher said.
Tavener studied at the Royal Academy of Music and spent five decades composing. 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.
He recorded on the Apple label and much of his work was inspired by his spirituality after joining the Russian Orthodox Church.
But Tavener was plagued by poor health for much of his life. He 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, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith/Mark Heinrich)