(Born; Paide, 11 Sept 1935). Estonian composer. He was a
pupil of Eller at the Tallinn Conservatory until 1963 while working as a sound producer
for Estonian radio (1957-67); in 1962 he won a prize for a children's cantata (Our
Garden) and an oratorio (Stride of the World). Early works followed standard
Soviet models, but later he turned to strict serial writing, in rhythm as well as pitch (Perpetuum
mobile,1963) and then collage techniques (Symphony no.2, 1966; Pro et contra
for cello and orchestra,1966). In the 1970s he came into contact with plainchant and the
music of the Orthodox Church, which affected his music both technically and spiritually.
This is seen in, for example, Symphony no.3 (1971) and the cantata Song for the Beloved
(1973) as well as Tabula rasa for three violins, strings and prepared piano (1977).
The music of other composers is evoked, drawing on minimalist techniques of repetition, in
such works as Arbos for chamber ensemble (1977, Janácek), Summa for tenor,
baritone and ensemble (1980, Stravinsky), Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten for
bell and strings (1980, Britten). Of more recent works, Pari intervalli echoes Bach
chorale preludes, An den Wassern zu Babylon calls on 13th-century music and the St
John Passion (1981) uses choral and instrumental heterophony recalling ancient
incantation, always intense yet pure and ritualistic in effect. Pärt went to live in
Berlin in the early 1980s.
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