Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (born 1935) has forged one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music. He has long held an interest in plainchant and the music of J S Bach, influences which are played out in his own compositions in a number of ways including a preference for austere and hypnotic rhythmic and melodic lines (the plainchant influence), and polyphonic textures and sacred genres (the Bach influence). His music entered a new and idiosyncratic phase in the mid-1970s with the unveiling of his ‘tintinnabuli technique’ (his term), a system of pitch organisation whereby a single melodic line hovering around a central pitch is ornamented by a second part which sounds notes from the tonic triad. In the words of Alex Ross, ‘He [Pärt] is a composer who speaks in hauntingly clear, familiar tones, yet he does not duplicate the music of the past.’ Pärt’s best known works include Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, Tabula Rasa and St John Passion. He has composed a significant quantity of sacred choral music including works which set Latin, Russian Orthodox and Church Slavonic texts. He left Estonia for Western Europe in 1980, living briefly in Vienna before settling in Berlin. He now lives in Tallinn, Estonia.
© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra