A disciplined plea for peace – and quiet – from composer Arvo Pärt : Deceptive Cadence A new album of music by the 88-year-old Estonian mystic seems to put an arm around you and whisper, "In troubled times, music can help."

A disciplined plea for peace – and quiet – from composer Arvo Pärt

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In troubled times, music can help.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALLINN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF PART'S "GREATER ANTIPHONS: VI. O KING OF ALL PEOPLE")

CHANG: Arvo Part is known for his serene, slow-moving music. A new album of works by the 88-year-old Estonian composer has been released, and NPR's Tom Huizenga has been listening and chilling out.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: "Tractus," Arvo Part's new album of sacred instrumental and choral works, tends to lower my blood pressure. Here's how it works.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLEMORE TRACTUS")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing in non-English language).

HUIZENGA: That's the album opener, "Littlemore Tractus," with a text from a 19th century theologian. It's a prayer, really, for support and peace at the end of a frenzied day or perhaps at the end of life itself. It sets the tone for an entire album of comforting music. Religious or not, you can feel the effects, like in this antiphon, where slowly pulsing strings envelop you like a warm blanket.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALLINN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF PART'S "GREATER ANTIPHONS: VII. O EMMANUEL")

HUIZENGA: Part keenly understands that less is often more. In 2014, he told me that silence is like fertile soil awaiting our creative acts, our seeds. But he said we must recognize its power.

ARVO PART: Silence must be approached with a feeling of awe.

HUIZENGA: A sense of awe in a piece like "Sequentia."

(SOUNDBITE OF TALLINN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF PART'S "SEQUENTIA")

HUIZENGA: Part loves the serenity of low-pitched drones and tinkling bells. But in "Cantique Des Degres," with its promise of protection based on Psalm 121, Part's music boldly takes flight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANTIQUE DES DEGRES")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing in non-English language).

HUIZENGA: Most of "Tractus" is tranquil and pleasing to the ear. But contradictions abound, especially in the piece titled "These Words...," in which there are none. This purely instrumental work is inspired by a text, a prayer for stability. And yet the music sounds precarious, with dark dissonances.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALLINN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF PART'S "THESE WORDS...")

HUIZENGA: Conductor Tonu Kaljuste, who has been giving tailormade performances of Part's music with these orchestral and choral forces for three decades, ends the album with a plea for the basics - bread for our table, safety and the ability to forgive and be forgiven.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VATER UNSER")

ESTONIAN PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR: (Singing in non-English language).

HUIZENGA: Arvo Part routinely gets the nod for most performed living composer, and in our ever-violent, confounding world, we need his music now more than ever.

CHANG: The album is called "Tractus." Our reviewer is NPR's Tom Huizenga.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALLINN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF PART'S "LITTLEMORE TRACTUS")

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