Arvo Pärt

Estonian composer. Studied composition in Tallin with Velj Tormis and Hein Eller (1958–1963). His early compositions were inspired by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bartók, and later he experimented with Schönberg’s twelve-tone technique and serialism. He soon aroused the ill-will of Soviet officialdom, who besides objecting to his “decadent” composing procedures also took exception to the religiosity of Pärt’s works. From 1962 he studied at the Moscow Conservatory, at which period he concerned himself with the technique of collage. There followed a lengthy creative pause (1968–1976), during which the composer was engrossed with Gregorian chant, the music of the Notre Dame school and of the Renaissance. During this period he entered the Russian Orthodox Church. With the piano composition Für Alina, which he presented in 1976, he created his own distinctive style, which he called tintinnabuli. As the composer conceived it, there was the transferred meaning of the bell-like sound of the chord whose notes are the basic material of the work. The statics of the harmonic component – a minor or major triad – symbolises eternity, and the dynamics of the melodic component likewise symbolise the transience of the world. In 1980, under pressure from Soviet officials, Pärt emigrated and settled in Berlin. He wrote several compositions which became literally “cult” works: Tabula Rasa (1977) for two violins, prepared piano and string orchestra, Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano (1978), St. John Passion (1982), Stabat Mater (1985/2008) and Magnificat (1989). He has received many awards for his work. In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate from the Catholic Theological Faculty of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg. His composition Adam's Lament received a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (2014). In 2015 Adam's Passion was premiered in Tallin as the joint work of Arvo Pärt and Robert Wilson, who contributed to the visual aspect.