Arvo Pärt 1935 -- Present
Early Life • Born in Paide, Estonia on September 11, 1935. Grew up in Tallinn. • Studied at the Tallinn Music Middle School in 1954 and 1956. • Fulfilled on year of obligatory military service in 1955 as on oboist in an army band. • From 1957-1963 he studied at the Tallinn Conservatory under Heino Eller, Harry Osta, and Veljo Tormis. • Recording Director and Composer of Music for film and television from ’58-’67 at Estonian Radio. • Commissions for numerous pieces in the neoclassic style. • Won first prize in the All-Union Young Composers’ Competition in 1962 for Children’s Cantata, Our Garden, and Stride of the World.
Finding Himself • Contemporary Western Music was not readily available in the USSR during the 1960’s. But Pärt was at the forefront of developing methods in Estonia. • Nekrolog (1961) was the first in Estonia to use the Serial technique, and he was officially rebuked for it. • Most of his early works were either highly praised or severely disliked. • Credo (1968) was banned by the government for its overtly religious theme. • Shortly thereafter, he entered a period of contemplative silence. He studied choral music of the 14th – 16th centuries (Machaut, Ockeghem, Obrecht, and Josquin). • Upon emerging he composed several pieces in the spirit of European Polyphony in the early 1970’s. • Ex: 3rd Symphony (1971) • These are considered transitional pieces.
Later Years • After 1972, he entered another silent period; he studied more medieval music and Gregorian Chant. • In 1976 he reemerged, having developed his characteristic style: Tintinnabuli. • Tintinnabuli (little bells): “Two-part homophonic texture. A melodic voice moves, mostly stepwise, around a central pitch. The tintinnabuli voice sounds the notes of the tonic triad.” (2) • Sounds hollow and reminiscent of the way the sound of a bell hangs in the air. • First appeared in a short piano piece: Fur Alina (1976). • The Soviet government and academic community applied increasing pressure on Arvo in the late 70’s and 80’s because of his religiously themed music. He finally immigrated, with his family, to Vienna. • His music became immensely popular in the west, and in 1996 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Magnificat • Infancy Canticle: Luke 1.46-55 • The Blessed Virgin speaks it during the Visitation, in response to Elizabeth’s exaltation. • The Western Church sings it at Vespers, before the Preces and Oration. This commemorates that it was in the evening of the world that we were saved through Mary’s assent of faith to God’s Plan of Redemption. • The Eastern Church sings it at Lauds. • Song of thanksgiving for the favor of God, the grace pouring into the world through Christ, the mercies shown to Israel, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and the Patriarchs.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Et exsultavit spiritus meus: in Deo, salutari meo. Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae: ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes. Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est: et sanctum nomen ejus. Et misericordia ejus, a progenie in progenies: timentibus eum. Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui. Deposuit potentes de sede: et exaltavit humiles. Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimisit inanes. Suscepit Israel puerum suum: recordatus misericordiae suae. Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros: Abraham, et semini ejus in saecula. Magnificat anima mea Dominum. My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hat magnified me; and holy is his Name. And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations. He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed forever. My soul doth magnify the Lord. Lyrics
Poietic Analysis • Written in 1989. • Miserere (1989), The Beatitudes (1989), and Seven Magnificat Antiphons (1988). • SATB a capella. • “The human voice is the most perfect instrument of all.” -- Arvo Part. • Free reign to his religious sentiments.
Esthetic Analysis • Minor Work? • Written in tintinnabuli style. Alternates between a 2-part verse texture and a 3-part choral texture. • Popular with choirs around the world.
Bibliography • ROGER BULLIVANT/R (3): 'Magnificat, §3: After 1600', Grove Music Online (Accessed 07 May 2006), <http://www.grovemusic.com/shared/views/article.html?section=music.40076.3 • PAUL D. HILLIER: 'Pärt, Arvo', Grove Music Online (Accessed 07 May 2006), <http://www.grovemusic.com/shared/views/article.html?section=music.20964 • Henry, H.T. “Magnificat.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. [Online] Available (Accessed 07 May 2006), http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09534a.htm