Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is one of today’s leading composers, best known for his ‘tintinnabuli’ technique, which strives for the extreme reduction of sound materials and a limitation to the essential.
Pärt was born in Paide in 1935. After studying at the Tallinn Conservatory under Heino Eller, he worked as a sound engineer for Estonian Radio 1958–67. In 1980 he emigrated to Vienna and the following year to Berlin on a DAAD scholarship. Early in his career, as part of the ‘Soviet Avant-garde’ Pärt experimented with a number of techniques. His first creative period was of neo-classical piano music. In the following ten years he made his own individual use of techniques such as dodecaphony, composition with sound masses, aleatoricism and collage technique – in the last of these uniting avant-garde and early music in a form that reached its most extreme expression in his last collage piece Credo (1968). The search for his own voice drove him into a withdrawal from creative work that lasted nearly eight years, during which time he studied Gregorian Chant, the Notre Dame school and classical vocal polyphony. In 1976 Pärt developed the ‘tintinnabuli’ technique, which has guided all his subsequent works, including Fratres, Tabula Rasa and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten (all 1977). Further works include Passio (1982), Te Deum (1985), Miserere (1989/1992), Kanon pokajanen (1997) and Adam’s Lament (2010). An important element in Pärt’s music is text, which often plays a structural role in his compositional process.
Pärt has been the recipient of dozens of honours and distinctions. His works are commissioned and performed by leading musical figures around the world.
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