Alex Ambrose is a producer for Q2 Music, WQXR’s online station and website devoted to discovery, curiosity and vibrant 21st-century music.
A World Apärt: 24-Hour Arvo Pärt Marathon
24-Hour Celebration Covering the Vast, Spiritual Music of the Estonian Icon
Thursday, May 15, 2014
On Saturday, May 24, Q2 Music presented A World Apärt – a sonic celebration of the music of Arvo Pärt, one of the most revolutionary and recognizable voices of the 21st century. Hosted by Helga Davis (Einstein on the Beach) with a playlist compiled by noted Pärt scholar Toomas Siitan, A World Apärt offered a complete aural immersion into musical corners both known and obscure of the iconic Estonian.
The 12-hour marathon (played twice in one day) was repeated on June 2, the same day as Q2 Music's live audio webcast of the sold-out show of Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur.
Born September 11, 1935 in Paide, Estonia, Pärt has been the world's most performed living composer for the past three years with almost 300 recordings available in the U.S. alone. He's been interviewed by Bjork; and his music has been used in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, Gus van Sant, Michael Mann and many more. He's obtained a prominence in popular culture reserved normally for pop musicians, after coming first to the attention of Western audiences in 1984 with the release of the breakthrough album Tabula Rasa on the ECM label, and all this as a composer known primarily for religious choral works.
Pärt's current and highly original musical language, tintinnabuli (Latin for 'little bell'), first took shape with the 1976 solo piano piece, Für Alina, and followed earlier periods of experimentation with neoclassical piano music, 12-tone writing, collage techniques and chance music. Pärt's tinntinnabuli is characterized by intense emotional content in an intimate and uncluttered style (which belies its intricate organization schemes), and by its blend of simplicity and religious content.
Fellow composers have cited him as an influence, whether for his music (and that less notes could actually mean more music), or for his bravery in forging a unique, powerful and spiritual voice in the face of Soviet restrictions.
A World Apärt features a broad, 12-hour swathe of performances by his leading interpreters, including conductors Paul Hillier, Tõnu Kaljuste, Paavo Järvi, Dennis Russell Davies and Stephen Layton; ensembles Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Theatre of Voices, Hilliard Ensemble, Polyphony and Latvian Radio Choir; soloists Alexei Lubimov, Gidon Kremer, and many more.
A World Apärt is part of Q2 Music's ongoing 24 on the 24th marathon series of 24-hour celebrations of a particular corner of today's dynamic classical music scene on the 24th of each month. If you have suggestions as to a marathon you'd like to hear, leave them in the comments section below.