Thursday, 11 October 2007

Spiegel im Spiegel and Festina Lente by Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt is one of my best loved minimalist composers. He spends half of his year in an orthodox monastery and the rest of it he composes. His profoundly simple; yet unbelievable profound and esoteric compositions resonate so strongly with my heart.

The article below is from wikipedia:

Arvo Pärt (born September 11, 1935 in Paide), (IPA: [ˈɑr̺vɔ ˈpær̺t]) is an Estonian composer, often identified with the school of minimalism and more specifically, that of "mystic minimalism" or "sacred minimalism". He is considered a pioneer of this style, along with contemporaries Henryk Górecki and John Tavener. Arvo Pärt is best known for his choral works.


Even in Estonia, Arvo was getting the same feeling that we were all getting. [...] I love his music, and I love the fact that he is such a brave, talented man. [...] He's completely out of step with the zeitgeist and yet he's enormously popular, which is so inspiring. His music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion.Steve Reich

Pärt's musical education began at age 7, while he began attending music school in Rakvere (his family lived there at the time) and by 14 or 15 he was writing his own compositions. While studying composition (with teacher Heino Eller) at the Tallinn Conservatory it was said of him that: "he just seemed to shake his sleeves and notes would fall out". There were very few influences from outside the Soviet Union at this time, just a few illegal tapes and scores.

Although at the time of Pärt's birth Estonia was an independent state, the Soviet Union occupied it in 1940 as a result of the Soviet-Nazi Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the country remained under Soviet control (except for a 3-year period of German occupation), for the next 51 years.

Pärt's oeuvre is generally divided into two periods. His early works range from rather severe neo-classical styles influenced by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bartók. He then began to compose using Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique and serialism. This, however, not only earned the ire of the Soviet establishment, but also proved to be a creative dead end. Pärt's biographer, Paul Hillier, says:

"... he had reached a position of complete despair in which the composition of music appeared to be the most futile of gestures, and he lacked the musical faith and will-power to write even a single note"

This may be an overstatement since the transitional third symphony (1971) was composed during this time. However, it is clear that Pärt experienced a deep personal crisis. His response to this impasse was to immerse himself in early music — to go, in effect, back to the roots of western music. He studied plainsong, Gregorian chant, and the emergence of polyphony in the Renaissance. At the same time he began to explore religion and joined the Russian Orthodox Church, perhaps indicating that his crisis was partly spiritual in nature, rather than exclusively musical.

The music that began to emerge after this period was radically different. Pärt describes it as tintinnabuli - like the ringing of bells. The music is characterised by simple harmonies, often single unadorned notes, or triad chords which form the basis of western harmony. These are reminiscent of ringing bells, hence the name. Tintinnabuli works are rhythmically simple, and do not change tempo. The influence of early music is clear. Another characteristic of Pärt's later works is that they are frequently settings for sacred texts, although he mostly chooses Latin or the Church Slavonic language used in Orthodox liturgy instead of his native Estonian language.

He moved to Berlin in 1980 and has lived there ever since.

It is for these latter works that Pärt is best known, and he is unusual for a modern composer in that he is very popular in his own lifetime. Arvo Pärt's music came to public attention in the West, largely thanks to Manfred Eicher who recorded several of Pärt's compositions for ECM Records starting in 1984.

Pärt has said that his music is similar to light going through a prism: the music may have a slightly different meaning for each listener, thus creating a spectrum of musical experience, similar to the rainbow of light.

His music has been used in over 50 films, from "Väike motoroller" (1962) to "Promised Land" (2004). The Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten was used in Léos Carax's Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) and in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 while showing the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. Spiegel im Spiegel was prominently used in Mike Nichols' Wit (2001), the mountain climbing documentary Touching the Void (2003), and Gus Van Sant's Gerry (2003), which also used Für Alina.

A new composition, For Lennart, written for the memory of the Estonian President Lennart Meri, was played at his funeral service on April 2 2006.

In response to the murder of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow on October 7 2006, Arvo Pärt has declared that all his works performed in the 2006-2007 would be commemorating her death.

"Anna Politkovskaya staked her entire talent, energy and – in the end – even her life on saving people who had become victims of the abuses prevailing in Russia."

Pärt is to be honoured as the featured composer of the 2008 RTÉ Living Music Festival in Dublin, Ireland and he has also been commissioned by Louth Contemporary Music Society [1] to compose a new choral work based on St. Patricks Breastplate, to be premiered in 2008 in Louth, Ireland.The new commission is complete and is called The Deers Cry. It will have its first performances in Drogheda and Dundalk on 13 and 14 February 2008 respectively.

Selected works

Works for voices and orchestra

  • Our Garden, Cantata for children's chorus and orchestra (1959/2003)
  • Credo for chorus, orchestra, and piano solo (1968)
  • Wallfahrtslied for tenor or baritone and string orchestra (1984/2000)
  • Te Deum for chorus, string orchestra and tape (1984-5, rev 1992)
  • Berlin Mass for chorus and organ or string orchestra (1992)
  • Litany for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1994)
  • Como cierva sedienta for soprano, chorus and orchestra (1998)
  • Cantiques des degrés for chorus and orchestra (1999/2002)
  • Cecilia, vergine romana for chorus and orchestra (1999/2002)
  • In Principio for chorus and orchestra (2003)

Works for voices and ensemble (or piano)

  • An den Wassern zu Babel saßen wir und weinten for voices or choir and organ or ensemble (1976/1984)
  • Sarah Was Ninety Years Old for three voices, percussion and organ (1977/1990)
  • De profundis for chorus, percussion and organ (1980)
  • Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem for soloists, vocal ensemble, choir and instrumental ensemble (1982)
  • Es sang vor langen Jahren for alto, violin and viola (1984)
  • Wallfahrtslied for tenor or baritone and string quartet (1984)
  • Stabat Mater for 3 voices and string trio (1985)
  • Miserere for soli, choir and ensemble (1989)
  • Zwei Wiegenlieder for two women’s voices and piano (2002)
  • L'Abbé Agathon for soprano, four violas and four celli (2004/2005)

Works for chorus (and organ)

  • Missa syllabica for chorus and organ (1977)
  • Summa for chorus (1977)
  • Magnificat for chorus (1989)
  • Bogoroditse Djevo for chorus (1990)
  • Dopo la Vittoria for chorus (1996)
  • Kanon Pokajanen for chorus (1997)
  • Triodion for chorus (1998)
  • Which Was the Son of... (2000)
  • Nunc Dimittis for chorus (2001)
  • Peace upon you, Jerusalem for female chorus (2002)
  • Anthem written for St John's College, Oxford (2005)

Orchestral works

  • Nekrolog for orchestra op.5 (1960)
  • Symphony No.1 for orchestra op.9 (1963)
  • Perpetuum mobile for orchestra op.10 (1963)
  • Symphony No.2 for orchestra (1966)
  • Symphony No.3 for orchestra (1971)
  • Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte ... for piano, wind quintet, string orchestra and percussion (1976)
  • Fratres for chamber ensemble (1976 and on, many versions)
  • Arbos for brass and percussion (1977/1986)
  • Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell (1977)
  • Psalom for string orchestra (1985/1995/1997)
  • Festina Lente for string orchestra and harp (1988)
  • Summa for string orchestra (1991)
  • Silouans Song for string orchestra (1991)
  • Trisagion for string orchestra (1992)
  • Mein Weg for 14 string players and percussion (1999)
  • Orient & Occident for string orchestra (2000)
  • Lennartile / Für Lennart for string orchestra (2006)
  • La Sindone for orchestra and percussion (2006)

Works for solo instruments and orchestra

  • Collage sur B-A-C-H, for oboe, string orchestra, harpsichord, and piano (1964)
  • Pro et Contra, concerto for cello and orchestra (1966, for Mstislav Rostropovich)
  • Credo for chorus, orchestra, and piano solo (1968)
  • Tabula Rasa, double concerto for two violins, string orchestra and prepared piano (1977)
  • Fratres for violin, string orchestra and percussion (1992)
  • Concerto piccolo über B-A-C-H for trumpet, string orchestra, harpsichord and piano (1994)
  • Darf ich ... for violin, bells and string orchestra (1995/1999)
  • Lamentate for piano and orchestra (2002)

Instrumental works

  • 2 Sonatinen, op.1, for piano (1958/1959)
  • Für Alina for piano (1976)
  • Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka for piano (1977)
  • Spiegel Im Spiegel for violin or cello and piano (1978)
  • Fratres for violin and piano (1980)
  • Hymn to a Great City for two pianos (1984/2000)
  • Summa for string quartet (1990)
  • Mozart-Adagio for violin, cello and piano (1992/1997, from Mozart's Piano Sonata in F major (K 280))
  • Passacaglia for violin and piano (2003)
  • Annum per Annum (organ)
  • Pari Intervallo (organ)


Printed sources

External links

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