Pärt, Arvo

views updated May 18 2018

Arvo Pärt


For the Record

Selected compositions

Selected discography


Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt writes compositions that reflect his study of medieval musical forms. His work also reveals his deep Christian faith, especially the pieces commissioned to commemorate Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches and liturgies. While his early work was influenced by Russian neoclassical composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, Pärt later adopted a quieter, more meditative approach to composition for his Symphony No. 3. In 1976 he developed what he named tintinnabuli, or the tintinnabulation method of composition. Derived from the Latin for little bells, Pärt described his technique in the liner notes of his Fratres album as the evocation of bells, the bells complex but rich sonorous mass of overtones, the gradual unfolding of patterns implicit in the sound itself, and the idea of a sound that is simultaneously static and in flux.

The tintinnabulation method is a minimalist approach that resembles chant and other types of medieval music. In a quotation cited on the All Music Guide website, Pärt explained: I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elementswith one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materialswith the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.

Pärts tintinnabulation technique is apparent in such works as Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Joannem, Te Deum, Silouans Song, Magnificat, Berliner Messe, and Kanon Pokajanen, which feature choral support from such vocal groups as the Hilliard Ensemble and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. These works prompted Evan Carter to note in the All Music Guide: Throughout Arvo Parts career, he has demonstrated a voracious musical curiosity and daring experimental spirit that has allowed him to move beyond a secure place as Estonias premiere composer to become perhaps the best known choral and sacred music scorist of his time.

Pärt was born on September 11, 1935, in Paide, Estonia, and was raised in Tallinn. He served as recording director and composer of music for film and television for Estonian Radio from 1958-67. He studied composition under Heino Eller at the Tallinn Conservatory, graduating in 1963. In 1960 he completed his first orchestral work, Necrolog, which he dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. The work is of note because it was the first Estonian work to employ the dodecaphonic (12-tone) method of musical theorist and composer Arthur Schoenberg. In 1962 he won first prize in the All-Union Young Composers Competition for his cantata Meie aed (Our garden) and oratorio Maailma samm (Stride of the world). The first was composed for a three-part childrens choir and orchestra, and the latter for chorus and orchestra. Both pieces display the influences of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

Another composition from this period, Solfeggio, was a one-page choral work that is notable, according to Lyn Schenbeck in Choral Journal, because it actually consists of a series of major scales; it looks like an exercise, but the manner in which the scales are voiced makes it a lovely, accessible piece. Pärt dedicated Symphony No. 1 (Polyphonic) to his professor Heino Eller, and followed it with Perpetuum mobile in 1963, a piece that extrapolates from the pitches employed in Symphony No. 1 and adds a new rhythm relying on two sets containing 12 figures of equal duration.

Dissatisfied with the direction of his music, Pärt began to experiment with musical collage. His remarks to Merike Vaitmaa in the liner notes for Arvo Pärt, Cello Concerto Pro et Contra; Perpetuum mobile; Symphony No. 1 (Polyphonic); Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3, reprinted on the Musiclog.com website, explain that these collages were an attempt to replant a flower in alien surroundings (the problems of suitability of tissue; if they grow together into one, the transplantation was the right move). Here, however, the idea of transplantation was not in the foregroundI wished rather to cultivate a single flower myself.

Pärts collage method relied on the inclusion of borrowed music from such composers as Bach and Tchaikovsky. This technique is perhaps most noticeable in Pärts Collage ϋber B.A.C.H., composed for strings, oboe, harpsichord, and piano, and features a Bach saraband for oboe and harpsichord. Similarly,

For the Record

Born on September 11, 1935, in Paide, Estonia. Education: Degree in composition, Tallinn Conservatory, 1963,

Estonian Radio recording director and composer of music, 1958-67; composed first orchestral work, Necrolog, 1960; entered self-imposed sabbatical from composition to study medieval music, 1968; finished Symphony No. 3, 1971; the composition Credo banned in Estonia; developed compositional style he labeled tintinnabulation, finished first composition in this style, the piano composition Für Alina, 1976; emigrated to Vienna, became Austrian citizen, 1980; emigrated to West Berlin, 1982; released best-selling album Litany, 1996.

Awards: All-Union Young Composers Competition in Moscow, first prize for Meie aed (Our garden) and Maailma samm (Stride of the world), 1962; Estonian Music Prize for Tabula rasa, 1977.

Member: American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1996.

Addresses: Record company ECM Records, Postfach 600 331, 81203 Munich, Germany.

Symphony No. 2 contains a portion of Tchaikovskys Album for Children. Pro et contra doesnt directly borrow music from another composer, but features Pärts imitation of baroque music. Pärts 1968 composition, Credo (for piano, orchestra and chorus), borrows a piano solo from Bachs C Major Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier, which also requires the orchestra and singers to improvise during sections in which the pitch range is specified, but the notes are not.

After debuting Credo, Pärt devoted three years to the study of medieval music. He showed particular interest in Notre Dame organum (the beginning of polyphany) and French and Flemish choral music. Quoted by David E. Pinkerton II on the approach of such medieval composers as Machaut, Ockeghem, Obrecht, and Jos-quin des Prez, Pärt stated: The spirit of the music was objective. Composers strove for a cool balance of musical elements within a strong formal framework, an ideal evident in all the essential characteristics of the music a playing down of purely sensuous appeal. His intensive study of medieval forms resulted in his 1971 Symphony No. 3, notable for the quieter direction his composition displayed, as well as its reliance on melody, tone, and rhythm in place of the dissonance of his work of the mid-1960s. In 1972, he composed Lied an die Geliebte. This symphonic cantata was the last piece he would compose for four years.

In 1976 Pärt introduced his first composition that marked his radical new style. Für Alina was a piano work that introduced Pärts new tintinnabulation theory. It relied on a quieter approach attained through a predominance of open intervals, extended pedal tones, silent intervals, and widely spaced pitches. Pärt explained to Richard E. Rodda in the liner notes for his Telarc release Fratres: Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answersin my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guisesand everything that is unimportant falls away. Pärts music typically revolves around the notes of a single triad, which denotes the tonal center of the composition.

The use of silence in Pärts musical compositions after 1976 lend them gravity and a sense of quiet devotion, which underscores the religious nature of the pieces. In the liner notes to the 1977 release of Tabula rasa, Wolfgang Sandner noted: Pärts cryptic remarks on his compositions orbit around the words silent and beautifulminimal, by now almost imperiled associative notions, but ones which reverberate his musical creations.

Writing in St. Paul Sunday, critic Bill McGlaughlin noted: What is interesting in Pärts music is what is not there. There is little rhythmic complexity, no extravagant use of orchestration, no self-conscious harmonic display or dissonance. What we do find is a straightforward flowing rhythm, reminiscent of chant, and a very spare harmonic palette of pure intervals. These intervals, McGlaughlin, continued, evoked a sense of spirituality: When we hear these intervals sung in a large, resonant space, like a cathedral, they have a miraculous effect. The two notes a fifth apart, C and G, for example, start to generate other sounds. They fill in the chord. We glance around the cathedral, wondering, looking for an angel choir. Angels or overtones? It doesnt matter. Arvo Parts simplicity touches us deeply.

Selected compositions

Meie aed (childrens chorus, orchestra), 1958.

2 sonatinas (piano), 1958, 1959.

Partita (piano), 1959.

String Quartet (chamber), 1959.

Nekrolog (orchestra), 1960.

Maailma samm (oratorio for chorus and orchestra), 1961.

Perpetuum mobile (orchestra), 1963.

Symphony No. 1, 1963.

Collage über B-A-C-H (strings, oboe, harpsichord, piano), 1964.

Solfeggio (chorus, string quartet), 1964.

Musica syllabica (chamber; for 12 instruments), 1964.

Wind Quintet (chamber), 1964.

Pro et contra (cello concerto), 1966.

Symphony No. 2, 1966.

Credo (piano, chorus, orchestra), 1968.

Symphony No. 3, 1971.

Lied an die Geliebte (symphonic cantata), 1972.

By the Waters of Babylon (Psalm 137 for voices, instruments), 1976-84; rev. 1994.

Calix (chorus and instruments), 1976.

Für Alina (piano), 1976.

Trivium (organ), 1976.

Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte (piano, wind quintet, strings), 1976.

Arbos (7 flutes, 3 triangles ad libitum), 1977; also for 8 brass and percussion, 1977-86.

Cantate Domino Canticum Novum (Psalm 95; voices, instruments), 1977-91.

Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten (strings, bell), 1977.

Fratres (chamber ensemble), 1977; also for violin and piano, 1977-80; for 4, 8, or 12 cellos, 1977-83; for string quartet, 1977-85, etc.

Missa Syllabica (voices, instruments), 1977-96.

Sarah was 90 Years Old (3 voices, percussion, organ), 1977-96.

Tabula rasa (double concerto for two violins or violin and viola, strings, prepared piano), 1977.

Variationen zur gesundung von Arinuschka (piano), 1977.

Spiegel im Spiegel (violin and piano), 1978; also for violin, piano, and string orchestra, 1980.

Annum per annum (organ), 1980.

De Profundis (mens chorus, organ, optional percussion), 1980.

Pari intervallo (4 flutes), 1980; also for organ.

Summa (chorus or 4 soloists), 1980-90.

Summa (violin, 2 violas, cello), 1980-90; also for string quartet, 1980-90.

Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (tenor, bass, vocal quartet, chorus, instrumental quartet, organ), 1982.

Ein Wallfahrtslied (Psalm 121; tenor or baritone, string quartet), 1984; rev. 1996.

Te Deum (3 choruses, piano, strings, tape), 1984-85; rev. 1986.

Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler (organ), 1985.

Stabat Mater (soprano, alto, tenor, violin, viola, cello), 1985.

Psalom (string quartet), 1986-91; rev. 1997.

Festina lente (strings, harp ad libitum), 1988; rev. 1990.

Magnificat (chorus), 1989.

Miserere (soloists, chorus, ensemble, organ), 1989; rev. 1992.

Nun eile ich zu euch (chorus, soloists), 1989.

Beatus Petronius (2 choruses, 2 organs), 1990.

The Beatitudes (chorus, soloists, organ), 1990; rev. 1991.

Berliner Messe (chorus, soloists, organ or string orchestra), 1990; rev. 1997.

Statuit ei Dominus (2 choruses, 2 organs), 1990.

Silouans Song: My Soul Yearns After the Lord (strings), 1991.

Adagio (violin, cello, piano), 1992.

And One of the Pharisees (3 voices), 1992.

Litany: Prayers of St. John Chrysostom for Each Hour of the Day and Night (soloists, chorus, orchstra), 1994.

Darf ich (violin, tubular bells ad libitum, strings), 1995.

Dopo la vittoria (chorus), 1997.

Kanon Pokajanen (chorus), 1998.

Triodion (chorus), 1998.

Cantiques des degrès (chorus, orchestra), 1999.

Como anhela la cierva (choral), 1999-2001.

My Hearts in the Highlands (chamber), 2000.

Littlemore Tractus (chorus, organ), 2001.

Salve Regina (chorus, organ), 2002.

Selected discography

Arbos, ECM, 1968.

Tabula rasa, ECM, 1977.

Passio, ECM, 1988.

Symphonies 1-3, BIS, 1989.

Miserere, ECM, 1991.

Collage, Chandos, 1993.

Fratres, Telarc, 1995.

Te Deum, ECM, 1995.

De Profundis, Harmonia Mundi, 1996.

Litany, ECM, 1996.

Beatus, Virgin, 1997.

Kanon Pokajanen, ECM, 1998.

Alina, ECM New Series, 1999.

Johannes-Passion, Finlandia, 2001.

Orient & Occident, ECM, 2002.



Slonimsky, Nicolas, Editor Emeritus, Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial Edition, Schirmer, 2001.


Commentary, April 1995.

Notes, June 2001; March 2002.


Arvo Pärt, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusicguide.com (August 30, 2002).

Arvo Pärt Biography, ECM Records, http://www.ecmrecords.com/ecm/bio/111.html (August 30, 2002).

David Pinkertons Arvo Pärt Information Archive, http://www.arvopart.org (January 17, 2003).

20th-century Music Composers: Arvo Pärt, Emory University, http://www.emory.edu/MUSIC/ARNOLD/part_content.html (August 30, 2002).

Bruce Walker

Arvo Pärt

views updated Jun 11 2018

Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt (born 1935) was a prolific modern composer whose works were noted for their minimalism and deep spirituality. He composed works for full orchestra and chamber groups as well as choral and keyboard pieces. His work was performed in concert halls and incorporated into religious observances.

Began Career in Radio

Pärt was born on September 11, 1935, in Paide, Estonia, and was raised in Tallinn, the Estonian capital. He worked for Estonian Radio in Tallinn from 1957 until 1967 as a sound director. He also composed music for film and television for the Estonian network. His radio work had an unexpected influence on his approach to composition. In a 1998 interview in the Estonian newspaper Postimees, Pärt said: "The high end of audio techniques, which comes from having a high quality apparatus, drove me to the opposite extreme. To music's being, because audio cosmetics do not speak of substance. Music's substance is the interaction between two, three or four notes. The first steps, the changes which occur between these notes. For this you don't need sound techniques, you don't require a Steinway. This comes from the human voice, it begins with the most primitive instrument. I am not against the progress of audio techniques but you shouldn't overestimate their importance."

While at the Tallinn Conservatory, he studied composition with Heino Eller. He graduated in 1963. Pärt won first prizes in the 1962 All-Union Young Composers' Competition in Moscow for a children's cantata and an oratoria. He also worked with twelve-tone structure and other experimental forms.

Interest in Early Music

Pärt was first associated with mainstream modernist and avant-garde composition. He particularly explored serial composition, in works such as the orchestral piece "Nekrolog" (1960-1961) and many others up through "Credo" (1968).

Pärt interrupted his career for several years in the 1970s, choosing to study medieval and Renaissance music rather than to focus on his own music. In particular, he examined early chants and polyphony. About this same time, he converted to the Russian Orthodox faith. The only two pieces he wrote during this period were Symphony No. 3, written in 1971, and a cantata composed in 1972.

Pärt resumed composing in 1976. Opera News observed that after his hiatus, "his work has reflected that study, combining elements of early music, Eastern Orthodox spirituality and a search for unity through pristine beauty and simplicity." Because his music was so experimental and his newer works were concerned with religious ideas, his music was "not recommended" for performance during the 1970s by officials of the Soviet Union, of which Estonia was a member. Estonian student musicians and professionals continued performing Pärt's works in secret. In 1980, Pärt and his wife left Estonia, first moving to Israel and then to Austria, where he became a naturalized citizen.

"Holy Minimalism"

Pärt was most frequently compared to his contemporaries Henryk Gorecki, a Polish composer of works such as Third Symphony, Op. 36, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (1976), and John Tavener, a British composer. Their genre was dubbed "holy minimalism." Terry Teachout wrote in Commentary in 1995: "There is no commonly accepted term for this style, though it is sometimes referred to as 'European mysticism' or 'holy minimalism.' … All three men are intensely religious, are associated with orthodox faiths, and write both secular scores and music intended for liturgical usage; all three use repetition in a manner broadly reminiscent of the American minimalists."

Pärt's music was built on the successes of popular avant-garde minimalist composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Teachout said "the long road away from Schoenberg and Cage to Henryk Gorecki was paved in part by the easy-on-the-ear minimalism of Philip Glass and his contemporaries, as well as by the accessible avant-gardism of George Crumb… . It took classical music a full halfcentury to escape the cul de sac of hermetic modernism and reclaim the usable past of tonality."

Pärt called his musical approach tintinnabuli. Jeffers Engelhardt, writing in Notes in 2001, explained it as "an onomatopoeic term recalling liturgical bells. As a musical language, tintinnabuli is concerned with three essential elements: the triad, the linear melodic line, and silence. As a compositional process, tintinnabuli unites these elements with a sacred text in a manner that is at once systematic and deeply symbolic… . What emerges is a constellation of word and tone ranging from the austere to the playful." According to Engelhardt, the best examples of such works by Pärt were "Zwei slawische Psalmen (1984)," a piece using Psalms 117 and 131, sung in Church Slavonic, and "Te Deum" (1984-1985; rev. 1992).

The Sound of Silence

Another telling characteristic of Pärt's work was his use of silence within music. In a 1998 interview with Daniel Zwerdling on National Public Radio, Pärt, through an interpreter, referred to those silences as "intervals," which he said "take up a life of their own when the whole piece is being played in a cathedral. In my music, there is no difference concerning the importance between the musical parts and the parts with the silences. I would even go as far as to say that the silences become a very special life and a very special importance of their own. The score is written in a way that makes it necessary to have the silences for the overtones to create a new layer that vibrates during the silence parts."

Pärt was usually silent himself, rarely submitting to interviews. And when he did, he seemed evasive, even shy, in answering questions about his works and their meaning. He said he disliked talking and preferred silence. During a press conference, Brian Hunt of the Daily Telegraph said he came to see Pärt's seeming evasiveness as "a complete misunderstanding. He does not want to say anything without meaning; he does not want to manufacture answers simply to satisfy a questioner; he does not want words to obscure truths which only music can express."

Pärt said in the 1998 interview in Postimees that it was difficult to use language to describe his music: "There are as many different ways of perception as there are listeners and all of them are justified. From the perception to the words, however, there is a great loss when music is being written about… . You can write about your impressions, the mu sic's structure, its form and perhaps something else. It is much more difficult to put music itself into words. I think that this truth, that exists in art and music, causes a resonance in a person somewhere deep and secret. When they themselves have a need to feel the truth and a gift for the cognition of the truth. Music remains music and a word is still a word. They can very freely and peaceably coexist."

Pärt frequently based his work on passages from the Bible such as the Psalms or New Testament, while other pieces used religious texts such as the prayers of St. John Chrysostom or church liturgies such as the Russian Orthodox Canon of Repentance. Examples of the latter include "Memento" (1994) and "Kanon Pokajonen" (1997). Many of Pärt's works were recorded by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

Difficulty in Simplicity

Tom Manoff, music critic for the National Public Radio program "All Things Considered," observed that Pärt was a "kind, often funny man. Pärt can communicate the most profound sentiment without solemnity… . Pärt's music may strike the listener as sometimes sparse, but this apparent simplicity does not make for easy performance. His often transparent collage of sound in which an instrument or a voice may suddenly enter and then disappear makes his music difficult to perform."

Pärt said the act of composition is different for each artist, but it is always difficult. He said in the Postimees interview: "I believe that a true artist [is] always faced with the situation of making a sacrificial choice… . Behind the sacrifice is love. Universal love." In the same interview, Pärt said his commercial compositions helped him only in "getting money for a sandwich. It doesn't help me in any other way."

Critics Divided

Though many contemporary critics found Pärt's compositions accessible, others thought his work too minimal. In a 2000 Opera News review of Pärt's "I Am the True Vine," a piece originally commissioned for the nine hundredth anniversary of the Norwich Cathedral, the anonymous reviewer wrote: "I appreciate this music, respect it and am even moved at times by its plain beauty and its holy treatment of its ancient liturgical texts; I understand how it differs from minimalism and from New Age. Still, in the end, stasis is stasis is stasis."

"The music of Arvo Pärt can be somewhat polarizing," observed Rick Anderson in a 2002 review in Notes about Pärt's "Johannes-Passion," a recording of a choral piece based on the Passion According to St. John. "While many find the emotional intensity and spirituality of his compositions inspiring and uplifting, others react with less enthusiasm to the relatively static harmonic movement and lack of thematic development that typify his work."

Will Hermes flippantly pointed out in a 1998 Entertainment Weekly review of "Kanon Pokajanen" that Pärt was "championed by Bjork, Michael Stipe, and discerning candle merchants worldwide" but called the recording "a landmark a cappella choral work of brooding majesty based on the Russian Orthodox canon of repentance. Ambient-music fans may be a bit overwhelmed. But enter its exquisite polyphony and Christian pathology, and you will be utterly transported."

Pärt contended in the 1998 interview that he had no favorite composition: "All the compositions are like my own children. It is not necessarily so that the healthiest or most beautiful child is the most precious. Some piece which has not succeeded and which may never be finished may still be the closest to one's heart."


Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial Edition, Schirmer, 2001.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Grove Press, 1980.


Commentary, April 1995.

The Daily Telegraph, November 1, 1997.

Entertainment Weekly, September 11, 1998.

Notes, June 2001; March 2002.

Opera News, July 2000.

Washington Post, May 12, 2000.


"All Things Considered," National Public Radio, July 6, 1994;December 13, 1998.

David Pinkerton's Arvo Pärt Information Archive,http://www.arvopart.org (February 28, 2003). □

Pärt, Arvo

views updated May 23 2018

Pärt, Arvo (b Paide, 1935). Estonian composer. Worked for Estonian radio 1958–67. Emigrated in 1980, settling in (West) Berlin 1982. Early works influenced by Shostakovich, but later adopted strict serialism and eventually collages and minimalism. Works incl.:ORCH.: syms.: No.1 (1963), No.2 (1966), No.3 (1971); Nekrolog (1960); Perpetuum mobile (1963); Pro et Contra, vc. conc. (1966); Credo, pf., ch., orch. (1968); If Bach had kept bees (Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte), 2 versions, hpd., elec. (1978), hpd., 20 str. (1980); Tabula rasa, double conc., 2 vn. (or vn. and va.), str., prepared pf. (1977); Fratres, str., perc. (1977, rev. 1991), vn., str. (1977, rev. 1991) (see also ENSEMBLE and CHAMBER MUSIC); Summa, str. (1980–91) (see also CHORAL and CHAMBER MUSIC); Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten, str., bell (1980); Festina lente, str., opt. hp. (1988, rev. 1990); Silouan's Song (My Soul yearns after the Lord…), str. (1991).CHORAL: Cantate Domino Canticum Novum (Ps. 95), vv., instr. (1977–91); Missa syllabica, vv., instr. (1977–91); De profundis, male ch., perc. (opt.), org. (1980); Summa, unacc. ch. or 4 soloists (1980–90) (see also ORCH. and CHAMBER MUS.); St John Passion, ten., bass, vocal qt., ch., ob., bn., vn., vc., org. (1982); By the Waters of Babylon, ch., instr. (1984), with org. (1991); Te Deum, 3 ch., pf., tape, str. (1984–5, rev. 1986); 7 Magnificat Antiphons, unacc. ch. (1988, rev. 1991); Magnificat, unacc. ch. (1989); Nun eile ich zu euch, unacc. ch. or soloists (1989); Miserere, 5 soloists, ch., ens., org. (1989, rev. 1990); Mother of God and Virgin, unacc. ch. (1990); Beatus Petronius, 2 ch., 2 org. (1990); Statuit ei Dominus, 2 ch., 2 org. (1990); The Beatitudes, ch. or soloists, org. (1990, rev. 1991); Berlin Mass, ch. or soloists, org. or str. (1990–1).VOICE(S) & INSTR(S).: Sarah was 90 years old, sop., 2 ten., perc., org. (1983–90); Psalm 121, ten. or bar., str. qt. (1984); Es sang vor langen Jahren, motet, counterten., vn., va. (1984); Psalm 117 and Psalm 131, sop., cont., counterten., ten., bass (1984); Stabat Mater, sop., cont., ten., vn., va., vc. (1985).ENSEMBLE: Collage on BACH, str., ob., hpd., pf. (1964); Fratres, chamber ens. (1977) (see also CHAMBER MUS.); Arbos, chamber ens. (1977), 7 fl., 3 triangles (opt.) (1977), 9 brass instr., perc. (1977–86).CHAMBER MUSIC: wind quintet (1964); Fratres, vn., pf. (1977–80), 4, 8, or 12 vc. (1977–83), str. qt. (1977–85), vc., pf. (1977–89), wind octet, perc. (1977–90); Spiegel im Speigel, vn., pf. (1979); Pari intervallo, 4 fl. (1980) (see also ORGAN); Summa, vn., 2 va., vc. (1980–90), str. qt. (1980–91) (see also ORCH. and CHORAL); Sarah was 90 years old, 2 pf., tpt. or sop. (1983) (see also VOICE(S) & INSTR(S).); Psalom, str. qt. (1986–91).PIANO: Diagrams (1964); Für Alina (1976); Variationen zur gesundung von Arinuschka (1977).ORGAN: Trivium (1976); Pari intervallo (1980) (see also CHAMBER MUSIC); Annum per annum (1980); Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler (1985).

Pärt, Arvo

views updated May 17 2018

Pärt, Arvo

Pärt, Arvo, outstanding Estonian-born Austrian composer; b. Paide, Sept. 11, 1935. He was a student of Heino Eller at the Tallinn Cons., graduating in 1963. From 1958 to 1967 he worked for the Estonian Radio in Tallinn. In 1980 he emigrated to the West, becoming a naturalized Austrian citizen. In his early works, Part followed a modern path in which he utilized serial, aleatorie, and collage techniques. This course, along with his deeply felt spiritual convictions, caused him difficulties with Soviet officialdom. Part’s intense interest in medieval and Renaissance music led to a remarkable change of course in the mid-1970s as he developed a tintinnabular technique that resulted in scores notable for their beauty, strong character, and spirituality. In 1978 he was awarded the Estonian Music Prize for his Tabula rasa, a score that established his international reputation. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997. In 1998 he won the Moscow Triumph Award.


orch.:Nekrolog (1960); 3 syms. (1963, 1966, 1971); Perpetuum mobile (1963); Pro et contra, cello concerto (1966); Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte for Piano, Wind Quintet, and Strings (1976–84); Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten for Strings and Bell (1977); Tabula rasa, double concerto for 2 Violins or Violin and Viola, Strings, and Prepared Piano (1977); Fratres for Strings and Percussion (1977; rev. 1991; also for Violin, String Orch., and Percussion, 1992); Spiegel im Spiegel for Violin, Piano, and Strings (1980; also for Violin and Piano, 1978); Summa for Strings (1980–91); Dreiklang, concerto for Violin, Cello, and Chamber Orch. (1981); Festina lente for Strings and Harp ad libitum (1988; rev. 1990); Silouan’s Song: My Soul Yearns After the Lord...for Strings (1991); The Introductory Prayers for Strings (1992; rev. 1995). chamber: String Quartet (1959); Wind Quintet (1964); Musica syllabica for 12 Instruments (1964); Collage über B-A-C-H for Strings, Oboe, Harpsichord, and Piano (1964); Fratres for Chamber Ensemble (1977; also for Violin and Piano, 1977–80, for 4, 8, or 12 Cellos, 1977–83, for String Quartet, 1977–85, etc.); Arbos for 7 Flutes and 3 Triangles ad libitum (1977; also for 8 Brass and Percussion, 1977–86); Spiegel im Spiegel for Violin and Piano (1978; also for Violin, Piano, and String Orch., 1980); Pari intervallo for 4 Flutes (1980; also for Organ); Summa for Violin, 2 Violas, and Cello (1980–90; also for String Quartet, 1980–91); Psalom for String Quartet (1986–91; rev. 1997); Adagio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1992); Darf ich...for Violin, Tubular Bells ad libitum, and Strings (1995). keyboard:piano: 2 sonatinas (1958,1959); Partita (1959); Diagrams (1964); Für Alina (1976); Variationen zur gesundung von Arinuschka (1977). Organ: Trivium (1976); Pari intervallo (1980; also for 4 Flutes); Annum per annum (1980); Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler (1985). vocal:Meie aed (Our Garden) for Children’s Chorus and Orch. (1958); Maailma samm (The World’s Stride), oratorio for Chorus and Orch. (1961); Solfeggio for Chorus and String Quartet (1964); Credo for Chorus, Piano, and Orch. (1968); Laul armastatule (Song for the Beloved) for 2 Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (1973); Calix for Chorus and Instruments (1976); By the Waters of Babylon, Psalm 137 for Voices and Instruments (1976–84; rev. 1994); Modus for Soprano and Instruments (1976); In spe for 4 Voices and Instruments (1976); Sarah was 90 Years Old for 3 Voices, Percussion, and Organ (1977–90); Cantate Domino Canticum Novum, Psalm 95 for Voices and Instruments (1977–91); Missa Syllabica for Voices and Instruments (1977–96); Summa for Chorus or 4 Soloists (1980–90); De profundis for Men’s Chorus, Organ, and Optional Percussion (1980); Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem for Tenor, Bass, Vocal Quartet, Chorus, Instrumental Quartet, and Organ (1982); 2 Slavic Psalms (117 and 131) for Soprano, Alto, Countertenor, Tenor, and Bass (1984); Ein Wallfahrtslied, Psalm 121 for Tenor or Baritone and String Quartet (1984; rev. 1996); Es sang vor Langen Jahren for Alto or Countertenor, Violin, and Viola (1984); Te Deum for 3 Choruses, Piano, Strings, and Tape (1984–85; rev. 1986); Stabat Mater for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Violin, Viola, and Cello (1985); 7 Magnificat-Antiphonen for Chorus (1988; rev. 1991); Magnificat for Chorus (1989); Nun eile ich zu euch for Chorus or Soloists (1989); Miserere for Soloists, Chorus, Ensemble, and Organ (1989; rev. 1992); Mother of God and Virgin for Chorus (1990); Beatus Petronius for 2 Choruses and 2 Organs (1990); Statuii ei Dominus for 2 Choruses and 2 Organs (1990); The Beatitudes for Chorus or Soloists and Organ (1990; rev. 1991); Berliner Messe for Chorus or Soloists and Organ or String Orch. (1990; rev. 1997); And One of the Pharisees...for 3 Voices (1992); Litany: Prayers of St. John Chrysostom for Each Hour of the Day and Night for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1994); Dopo la vittoria for Chorus (Milan, Dec. 6, 1997); Kanon pokajanen for Chorus (Cologne, March 17, 1998); Triodion for Chorus (London, April 30, 1998); Como anhela la cierva for Soprano and Orch. (1998; Santa Cruz, Feb. 3, 1999); Cantiques des degrés for Chorus and Orch. (Monte Carlo, Nov. 19, 1999).


P. Hillier, A. P.: The Book (Oxford, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Pärt, Arvo

views updated May 18 2018

Pärt, Arvo (1935– ) Estonian composer. His early works were written in a traditional ‘Soviet’ style. In the 1970s, he adopted a minimalist style of gradually shifting chords and note-patterns that he called ‘tintinnabula’. Among his best-known works are Tabula Rasa (1977), Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten (1980), and the St John Passion (1981).