Arvo Pärt, classical music composer

Arvo Pärt image

Arvo Pärt


Arvo Pärt was born in Paide, Järva County, Estonia on September 11, 1935. His first instruction in music was at the age of seven, yet he did not begin to seriously study music until 1954 at the Tallinn Music Middle School. However, his studies were soon interrupted when he temporarily left the school to fulfill military service, playing oboe and percussion in the army band. He returned to music in 1957, enrolling at the Tallinn Conservatory where he studied composition with Heino Eller. During this time, and after his graduation in 1963, he worked as a recording engineer for Estonian Radio. His early compositions during this time where mainly for film and the stage.

Though Estonia was still an independent Baltic state at the time of Pärt's birth, it was taken over by the Soviet Union in 1940, and remained under the control of Moscow (with the exception of three years of Nazi occupation during the war) until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Pärt drew the ire of the Soviet establishment with his 1960 composition, Nekrolog, which utilized Schoenberg's twelve-tone system. However, less than a year later, he won First Prize in a competition of 1,200 works. Some years later, Pärt was once again at odds with Soviet officials when he sought to emigrate with his family. In 1980, his request was granted, and Pärt and his family moved first to Vienna where he became an Austrian citizen. The following year, he moved to Berlin. Pärt returned to his native Estonia around the turn of the 21st century.

Pärt's early music showed the influence of fellow Soviet composers, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. He also experimented with Schoenberg's twelve-tone system, but inevitably abandoned it when it was criticized by Soviet officials. After his early works were banned, Pärt entered a period of a silence, and delved into a contemplative study of choral music from the 14th to 16th centuries. When Pärt returned to composition, his music was radically different. Inspired by his study of plainsong, Gregorian chant, and the polyphony of the Renaissance, Pärt began composing in a unique minimalist style he called "tintinnabuli," from the Latin tintinnabulum meaning "a bell." Works from this period include Fratres, Tabula Rasa, Spiegel im Spiegel, and the large-scale choral compositions, St. John Passion and Te Deum.

Pärt continues to compose today and is prominent composer in modern classical music. His Symphony No. 4 was premiered at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on January 10, 2009, and was his first symphony composed since 1971. In 2011, he appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture by Pope Benedict XVI, and his piece, Adam's Lament, won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2014.

Composer Title Date Action
Arvo Pärt Speigel Im Spiegel 01/09/2009 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt Dedication für Alina 03/22/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt Dedication für Alina 08/24/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt Fratres for Cello and Piano 09/25/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt De Profundis 09/25/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt Für Anna Maria ( live rec ) 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Arvo Pärt Für Alina 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist