Arvo Pärt (born 11 September 1935) is an Estonian classical composer and one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs a self-made compositional technique called tintinnabuli. His music also finds its inspiration and influence from Gregorian chant.Pärt was born in Paide, Järva County, Estonia. A prolonged struggle with Soviet officials led him to emigrate with his wife and their two sons in 1980. He lived first in Vienna, Austria, where he took Austrian citizenship, and then re-located to Berlin, Germany. He returned to Estonia around the turn of the 21st century and now lives in Tallinn.Familiar works by Pärt are Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell (1977) and the string quintet "Fratres I" (1977, revised 1983), which he orchestrated for string orchestra and percussion, the solo violin "Fratres II" and the cello ensemble "Fratres III" (both 1980).Pärt is often identified with the school of minimalism and, more specifically, that of mystic minimalism or holy minimalism. He is considered a pioneer of this style, along with contemporaries Henryk Górecki and John Tavener. Although his fame initially rested on instrumental works such as Tabula Rasa and Spiegel im Spiegel, his choral works have also come to be widely appreciated.Pärt's musical education began at age seven. He began attending music school in Rakvere, where his family lived. By the time he reached his early teen years, Pärt was writing his own compositions. While studying composition with Heino Eller at the Tallinn Conservatory in 1957, it was said of him that "he just seemed to shake his sleeves and notes would fall out."In this period of Estonian history, Pärt was unable to encounter many musical influences from outside the Soviet Union except for a few illegal tapes and scores. Although Estonia had been an independent Baltic state at the time of Pärt's birth, the Soviet Union occupied it in 1940 as a result of the Soviet-Nazi Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; and the country would then remain under Soviet domination—except for the three-year period of German wartime occupation—for the next 51 years.
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