Pärt, Arvo

Pärt, Arvo pârt [key], 1935–, Estonian composer, b. Paide; grad. Tallinn Conservatory (1963). He worked for Estonian radio (1958–67), left his homeland (1980, then part of the USSR), and settled in West Berlin (1982). His first pieces were traditional, but by the time he composed the orchestral Nekrolog (1960) Pärt was using the techniques of serial music. His early works include the Credo (1968) for piano, chorus, and orchestra, a juxtaposition of 12-tone music with a harmonic progression by Bach, and the Symphony No. 3 (1971), a transitional work. In 1972, Pärt officially entered the Russian Orthodox Church. Four years later, he made an abrupt change in his work, one that began with the piano piece Für Alina. Inspired by Gregorian chant and Eastern Orthodox bell-ringing, he initiated a style he called tintinnabuli, which continues to characterize his work. It is strongly unitonal, minimal music in scales and broken triads that creates a balance of form and harmony and has rich mystical and religious overtones. In this system, each note of melody is paired with a note from a harmonizing triad chord so that they ring resonantly together with bell-like tones. Among his later works are the Fratres series (1976–) for various instruments, Tabula Rasa (1977), St. John Passion (1982), Magnificat (1989), Silovan's Song (1991), Litany (1994), the Symphony No. 4 (2008) for strings, harp, and percussion, and Adam's Lament (2010) for string orchestra and chorus. His meditative compositions have found a wide and appreciative audience in the West.

See P. Hillier, Arvo Pärt (1997).

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