On Q2 “The Sum of all Pärts”

On Q2The Sum of all Pärts

75th Birthday Celebration and 24 Continuous Hours of Music for Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt

Q2 tells us, “Join Q2 Saturday, September 11 for a 24-hour retrospective of Arvo Pärt, the contemporary Estonian composer known for his poignant and mystical works. You’ll hear pieces ranging from the epic St. John Passion, to the rarely heard four symphonies, including the recent Symphony No. 4, “Los Angeles“, to the touchstones of Spiegel im Spiegel, Fratres and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. In marking this solemn date in history it seems appropriate to feature a composer whose music suggests remembrance, loss and generosity.

Despite early forays into thornier collage and seriel techniques, by the mid-1970’s Arvo Pärt had refined his compositional voice into the distinctive “tintinnabular” style that has attracted such a devoted, global following. In an interview with the writer Richard E. Rodda for a Fratres recording liner notes, Pärt says:

‘Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this… The three notes of a triad are like bells.’

[Here is another formulation of the same thoughts:”…The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, I must search for unity…everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. Here I am alone with silence. I work with very few elements – with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials – with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.”….”]

From the most rigorous, forward-thinking critic to the most inexpert and recent newcomer to classical music, Arvo Pärt’s music seems to leave no one untouched, and his solitary, spiritual musical journey no one unimpressed. One thinks back to the political persecution he suffered in Russia in his earlier days and the subsequent spiritual conversion, and one sees the gathering momentum of a profound musical style. But is this always the case? Some thrive amdist turmoil, beauty being borne of chaos. How does Pärt’s path away from oppression and doctrine influence your appreciation of his arrival at tintinnabulation?