This hour-long work by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt was premiered in 1982, and poignantly recounts Christ’s Passion as told by St. John. Pärt, of course, is my favorite composer, so it’s no surprise that I love this work tremendously, but all bias aside, I consider this work one of the most ethereal vocal works ever written. Pärt’s use of silence as a way of pausing to meditate on the gospel, his use of monophony and homophony and the counterpoint-like dialogue between the winds and voice are so gorgeous. I’ve never heard such an intimate recounting of Christ’s Passion as that of Pärt.
If you aren’t familiar with Arvo Pärt, there’s one thing you should know–something which impacts his very impulse and desire to compose: his faith in God as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. This faith and love for God alone drives his work and compels him to write what he considers to be music that seeks to represent the beauty and simplicity of God. Thus to some, his incredible compositional journey from serialism, period of compostional silence (and coincidental resurgence of faith), and finally to the emergence of his tintinnabuli style, what many call as a sort of (and dare I say it, because he rejects the term) “holy minimalism,” is a journey most intriguing and has attracted many musicologists and music lovers alike. The reason for his work is a lofty one, and it certainly permeates with every note he composes. Those that give their talents for the glory of God are always rewarded, and this is certainly tangibly evident from the beauty of Pärt’s music.
I highly recommend you to check out his many other incredible works, such as Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, Tabula Rasa, Festina Lente and Stabat Mater. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thursday!