In contrast to last Sunday’s German Romantic music, this week the LCH choir will be singing music by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt (born 1935) and Dmitri Bortniansky (1751–1825). I found out that Pärt and Carl Crosier share the same birthday (September 11th!) but obviously not the same year.
Arvo Pärt described his music in this way: “ I could compare my music to white light which contains all the colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listeners.”
This week’s Gospel lesson will be on the Beatitudes, and appropriately, the anthem will be “The Beatitudes (1991),” which employs Pärt’s unique style, called “tintinnabuli,” (little bells) vocal lines which outline the arpeggio, or notes of the tonic triad. The effect has also been called sacred minimalism or holy minimalism and has its roots in chant. If you are familiar with the works of Philip Glass, this is a slight modification of it. Here’s what Pärt said about his compositional technique: “I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note . . . or a moment of silence comforts me. I work with very few elements . . . with primitive materials, with the triad. . . The three notes of a triad are like bells and that is why I call it ‘tintinnabulation.’ “
The piece builds to a dramatic climax and suddenly the organ bursts forth in a florid cadenza, after only playing slowly moving pedal points up to that point. That means I’d better be on my toes (literally and figuratively!)