Connecting The Dots On Arvo Pärt's Symphonic Journey : Deceptive Cadence A new album of the Estonian composer's four symphonies trace the path of a brave artist who risked throwing it all away to reinvent himself.
NPR logo

Connecting The Dots On Arvo Pärt's Symphonic Journey

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/603619806/604424001" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Connecting The Dots On Arvo Pärt's Symphonic Journey

Review

Connecting The Dots On Arvo Pärt's Symphonic Journey

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/603619806/604424001" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Arvo Part is one of the most performed living classical composers known for his spacious and meditative sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SUMMA FOR STRING ORCHESTRA")

SHAPIRO: You can hear how the Estonian composer arrived at this signature sound in a new collection of his symphonies. NPR's Tom Huizenga has been listening.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: For those who are used to Part's calm, reflective style, music from early in his career may come as a shock.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFM WROCLAW PHILHARMONIC PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SYMPHONY NO. 1")

HUIZENGA: That's Arvo Part's "Symphony No. 1" from 1963, and it kicks off a fascinating album of Part's four symphonies. It's a musical journey that spans 45 years. These performances conducted by Tonu Kaljuste are fervently detailed. Part, now 82, subtitled this symphony "Polyphonic," a nod to old traditions. But the music is perfectly modern, an example of what composers in the 1960s were expected to write - astringent and tonally challenging. You can still hear it in Part's second symphony.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFM WROCLAW PHILHARMONIC PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SYMPHONY NO. 2")

HUIZENGA: The second symphony from 1966 is compact, just 11 minutes long, and it's stuffed with bold and restless gestures. But it ends with a sweet surprise.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFM WROCLAW PHILHARMONIC PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SYMPHONY NO. 1")

HUIZENGA: That heavenly music dropping out of a very stormy sky is actually a quote from Tchaikovsky and perhaps a veiled message to the Soviet authorities who condemned some of Arvo Part's early pieces. After he wrote his second symphony, Part called it quits in 1968 and went almost completely silent. When he re-emerged eight years later, he launched one of the most radical reboots in music history with a completely new style.

The only major piece Part wrote during this blackout period was the third symphony. You can hear the composer turning his back on the trendy atonal sound. The music turns out to be a bridge between the old Part and the new.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFM WROCLAW PHILHARMONIC PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SYMPHONY NO. 3")

HUIZENGA: In the third symphony, Part's music becomes spacious, anticipating his breakthrough sound and, as he told me in 2014, his preoccupation with silence.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ARVO PART: On the one hand, silence is like fertile soil which awaits our creative act, our seed. On the other hand, silence must be approached with a feeling of awe.

HUIZENGA: It's hard not to be awed by Part's new style and the symphony he came up with next, his fourth, subtitled "Los Angeles," named more with angels in mind than the city where it premiered in 2009.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFM WROCLAW PHILHARMONIC PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SYMPHONY NO. 4")

HUIZENGA: Part's fourth symphony unfolds in long, flowing breaths. It's a world away from his congested first symphony. Although Part sees each of his symphonies as separate destinations, this compelling collection helps connect the dots, offering a roadmap through a singular composer's circuitous journey.

SHAPIRO: The album is "Arvo Part: The Symphonies." Our reviewer is NPR's Tom Huizenga.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFM WROCLAW PHILHARMONIC PERFORMANCE OF ARVO PART'S "SYMPHONY NO. 4")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.