Tuesday, 10.08.2004 at 19:00
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 at 19.00
Kuressaare St. Laurentius Church
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
conductor Paul Hillier
Program Arvo Pärt and Early Music
O Spross aus Isais Wurzel
O Schlüssel Davids
O König aller Völker
Anonymous (15th century England)
Tomas Luis de Victoria
O magnum mysterium
Dopo la vittoria
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Arvo Pärt and Early Music
In one way or another, early music has played a major role in Pärt's development as a composer. During the first part of his career, when his style was migrating through neoclassicism and serialism, J.S. Bach was the dominant figure; more as a symbol, however, than as a stylistic influence. Bach's "perfection" stood as an emblem of tradition - to be honoured, studied, parodied, and even symbolically destroyed and resurrected.
This process reached a climax in 1968 with CREDO, after which Pärt withdrew from public composition for several years. During this period he studied various aspects of early music – plainchant, medieval organum, the polyphony of such
composers as Machaut, Josquin , Victoria – his purpose being not to imitate their sound so much as their ability to express something beyond words, even while being deeply linked to words in various ways. By the same process he was
re-educating himself as a composer, using the simplest of means: the scale and the tonic triad. He called the style that emerged "tintinnabuli", referring to the sound quality of bells and the way in which they continue to resonate after they have been sounded.
This programme seeks to highlight some of these early music connections and allusions. We begin therefore with chant, and at the same time with a text whose composition Pärt celebrates in a relatively recent work, DOPO LA VITTORIA. In
this piece there is no sense of musical quotation however. The influence of chant is pervasive throughout his tintinnabuli works, but more in the intuitive sense of phrases that ebb and flow, and rarely in any form of direct quotation.
A similar non-musical cross-reference links the chanted ‘Liber Generationes' to Pärt's …WHICH WAS THE SON OF… Both texts, (the chant from St Mathew and the Pärt from St Luke) recount the lineage from Christ to God, but in opposite directions.
Some more overtly musical references can be detected in a work such as AN DEN WASSERN, which is imbued with the language of Perotin and the anonymous composers of early organum and discant. Other influences are more general, though none the less powerful for that. The fluent isorhythmic construction of Dunstable's VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS, the tender quality of Mouton's NESCIENS MATER which masks the fact that it is a very clever canon for two choirs, the intense and seemingly effortless beauty of Victoria's O MAGNUM MYSTERIUM; each of these pieces in turn creates an ambience in which Pärt's music finds itself at home.