Arvo Pärt

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Arvo Pärt is an Estonian Classical and Sacred music composer. He is known for the development of the tintinnabuli compositional style and for being one of the most performed contemporary composers in the world. He is also known for adopting the practices of the school of minimalism.

He was born in Paide, Estonia on 11th September 1935. At a young age, he started experimenting with his family’s broken piano. He formally began studying music in 1954 at the Tallinn Music Secondary School. He then took a break from the school from 1954 to 1957, while fulfilling his army service. Pärt went on to join the Tallinn Conservatory in 1957, where he studied composition under Professor Heino Eller. His credentials helped him become a recording engineer at a local Estonian Radio station. Pärt’s initially published music was for films and theatre, and in 1962, he won the All-Union Young Composer’s Competition for two of his works, ‘Our Garden’ and ‘Stride of the World’. He graduated from the Tallinn conservatory in 1963. He was said to have graduated from a neo-classical style of composing to adopting Schoenberg’s legendary twelve-tone style of composition. However, he would run into compositional, or as some would say, creative difficulty. Thus he took to further studies, which would include Gregorian chant, Polyphony, and classical western music. This resulted in Pärt’s most well known works from the 1970’s which included ‘Tabula Rasa’, ‘Spiegel im Speigel’, and ‘Fratres’.  Music critics noted the distinct composition style of these works, which Pärt would explain as tintinnabuli, a style that resembled ‘the ringing of bells’. His music was also be used for sacred texts; examples of such pieces include ‘St. John Passion’, ‘Te Deum’, ‘Litany’, ‘Magnificat’, and ‘The Beatitudes’.  Soon, his music began to capture the attention of the west. This happened largely due to Manfred Eicher, who recorded many of Pärt’s compositions and bring them to the west for ECM Records.

Pärt’s music has been played in many legendary gatherings. His works have been featured in the Rheingau Music Festival, the Windsbach boy’s choir, in the performances of the Bavaria Radio Symphony Orchestra, and in the Hilliard Ensemble. He would go on to dedicate musical performances such as ‘Fur Lennart’ for the late Estonian president Lennart Meri, as well as other performances for the late Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whom he admired for bringing to attention ‘the victims of abuse in Russia’.

Arvo Pärt is currently on contract with the Pontifical Council for Culture with Pope Benedict XVI, which he has been serving since 2011. His Symphony No.4, which he released in 2008, was his first symphony since 1971. It was nominated for a Grammy for best classical contemporary composition. He went go on to win the Grammy award for Best Choral Performance in 2014 for Adam’s Lament. He also received the highly respectable Praemium Imperiale award from the imperial family of Japan for his contribution in choral works and sacred music.


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