Arvo Pärt
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Arvo Pärt

Viktoria Mullova, Paavo Järvi, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra

The works on Viktoria Mullova’s new album devoted to Arvo Pärt’s music for violin stem from the composers study of medieval church music, and are products of what Arvo Pärt himself describes as a ‘tintinnabuli' style, developed by the composer in the 1970s through studying medieval church music ‘I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements - with one voice, two voices. I build with primitive materials - with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells and that is why I call it tintinnabulation.‘

They have become some of the most iconic pieces in the contemporary repertoire and have reached out way beyond the usual ‘classical’ music world in their popularity. This album was recorded in the presence of the composer.   


When I worked Sunday evenings at Readings in Carlton (some few years ago now) one of my favourite albums to put on in the shop to bring the vibe down and yet give it a frisson of emotion was Arvo Pärt’s Speigel im Speigel. His simplicity of style, named ‘tintinnabuli’, or translated from the Latin, ‘bell-like’ was pioneered by Pärt in the 1970s and has inspired and been imitated by composers world-wide. Most people wouldn’t realise that, although most of this music has such simple soaring melodies, the performance can make a huge difference in the emotional impact. The musicians can really make or break a piece with their interpretation, as there’s not much written on the page and it must simply come from the soul.

This latest rendition of some of Pärt’s most popular works are beautifully performed by violinist Viktoria Mullova and fellow Estonians Paavo Järvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Their ease and grace within Pärt’s particular style will stop you in your tracks and have you straining your ears to hear every nuance in their translation of his black dots into (mostly) delicate and (definitely) deliberate sounds.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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