Arvo Pärt (1935 - )

Arvo Pärt was born in Estonia in 1935. The Stabat Mater, composed in 1985 for string trio and vocal trio, is in the tintinnabuli style invented by the composer himself in the 1970’s. Influenced by Pärt’s mystical experiences with chant, this compositional technique takes its name from a word describing the sound of a struck bell. It combines voices homophonically in such a way that one voice outlines simple, scalar melodies, while the other leaps above and below the melodic line, always to notes within the tonic triad. The result is a kind of sonorous tonal reverberation that is always harmonically stable, but full of shimmering dissonances from the melodic voices.

A pathetic motif of three descending notes is elaborated instrumentally and vocally. The text is sung in a slow recitative and the sparse, open texture of the vocal lines is paralleled by the string parts, heightening the pain and anxiety of the text. The predominant slow motion is interrupted three times by short fast gigs. In the "Amen" at the end the motif from the beginning returns. The Stabat Mater is, in many ways, a realization of the composer’s goal to find “a musical line that is a carrier of the soul, an absolute monody, a naked voice from which everything originates.”

© Ryan Turner

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