TROUBADISC Music Production
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Arvo Pärt

biography

Arvo Pärt  was born  September 11, 1935 in Paide. Arvo Pärt is often identified with the school of minimalism and more specifically, that of "mystic minimalism" or "sacred minima-lism". 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.

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 compo-sitions.

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 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. 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.

Music of Arvo Pärt 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 Fahren-heit 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.

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 to compose a new choral work based on St. Patricks Breast-plate, 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.
 
“Human Geometry”

Let us fantasize a little. Let us attempt to observe a human soul as if under a microscope, where we gradually increase the degree of enlargement. We become witnesses to how all the external features of a human being, with all its characteristics, its weaknesses and virtues, disappear more and more from view in the course of the increasing enlargement. It is like an endless process of reduction, leading us in the direction of the essential. On this “journey to the heart” we also leave behind us all social, cultural, political, and religious contexts. At the end we arrive at a net-like basic pattern. One could possibly call it “human geometry”: clearly organized, serenely formed – but, above all, beautiful. At this depth we are all so similar to one another that we can recognize ourselves in anybody else. And this level could be the only one on which a truly functional (peace) bridge would even be conceivable, where all our problems – in the event that they still exist – would be resolvable.

From: “Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s acceptance speech on receipt of the Bridge Prize [‘Brücke-Preis’] in Görlitz: Searching for the much-longed-for magical island. The doors to it are open to everyone. But the path there is difficult – exasperatingly difficult,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich (10 November 2007), p. 17.

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Arvo Pärt