Michael McCooe – Composer: Pärt

Arvo Pärt (born 11 September 1935) is an Estonian piano composer of classical and religious music who has worked on music to his own unique style since the 1970s. His self-invented compositional technique, tintinnabuli, is in part inspired by Gregorian chant.

Early life

Born in Paide, Järva County, Estonia, Pärt was raised by his mother and stepfather. There was a piano in the family home, on which he practiced his work and began experimenting with the top and bottom notes when the middle section was damaged.

He first studied the piano seriously in 1954, attending the Tallinn Music Middle School, but his education was disrupted when he fulfilled military service. Although he did play oboe and percussion in the army band.

During the 1950s, Pärt completed a vocal composition the cantata Meie aed (‘Our Garden’) for children’s choir and orchestra. He worked as a radio producer on Estonian radio from 1957-67, while also graduating from the Tallinn Conservatory in 1963.

Establishing his own style

In the 1970s, Pärt studied medieval and Renaissance music and developed his own style, which is minimalist and typically sombre and religious.

Pärt

His major works include the violin concerto Tabula Rasa (1977), Cantus (in Memory of Benjamin Britten, 1977), Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen (1988) and The Beatitudes (1991). Pärt has been the most performed living composer globally for the past five years.

Pärt, his wife, and their two sons, emigrated to Vienna in 1980 before relocating to Berlin a year later. He returned to Estonia around the turn of the 21st century and now lives between Berlin and Tallinn. Pärt speaks fluent German and has German citizenship, where his music is also incredibly popular since he has lived there for a considerable amount of time in the last 35 years.

You can listen to some of my favourite classical pieces on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated regularly.