Arvo Pärt celebrates 80th birthday

Arvo Pärt (Kaupo Kikkas/ERR)
9/11/2015 10:54 AM
Category: Culture

The most famous Estonian and most performed living composer in the world turns 80 today.

Estonian music journalist Immo Mihkelson has said that Pärt’s compositions address everyone, attempting to appeal to that shared aspect of human kind which rises above nationality, skin colour and culture – it is as if the music wishes to say that we are all in it together. Indeed, Pärt commands respect and admiration from classical music fans from around the world, from Italy to Iran, and Belgium to Brazil.

In fact, Pärt’s music became internationally renowned before most Estonians were aware of it because he was forced to emigrate from his home country with his wife and their two sons in 1980, after a prolonged struggle with the Soviet officials. Most Estonians learned about Pärt’s fame when “Te Deum” climbed the Billboard’s classical music charts for 52 weeks during 1994-95 and was later nominated for a Grammy Award. In the last 20 years, however, Pärt has been universally revered as Estonia’s most famous son.

Arvo Pärt accepting birthday wishes at the window of his Tallinn Old Town home this morning (Photo: Peeter Langovits/Arvo Pärt Center).

Last two years have been especially kind to the maestro. 2014 saw Pärt been given the title of the world’s most performed living composer by the classical music event database, backtrack.com. Conductor Tõnu Kaljuste won a Grammy Award in the Best Choral Performance category for his work on Pärt’s album “Adam’s Lament” at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

In addition to multiple performances around the world, Pärt’s music was performed at four sold-out concerts in the United States – two in Washington, DC, and two in New York City, including one at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall, which was also honoured by the maestro’s own attendance. Finally, in October, the Japan Art Association presented Pärt with the prestigious Praemium Imperiale cultural award. The award is considered equal to the Nobel Prize in the field of culture, and was presented to the Maestro by the patron of the association, Prince Hitachi of Japan.

This year saw a new theatrical production, premiering at the Tallinn's Noblessner Foundry in May. For “Adam's Passion”, Pärt and American theater visionary Robert Wilson came together to create a mesmerizing symbiosis, combining Pärt's music and Wilson's stage choreography with stunning visuals. The stage production also gave a material for no less than two documentaries that reached the screen this week: “The Lost Paradise” and “Adam’s Passion”, both directed by international filmmakers.

In June, Pärt also received the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Austria’s highest decoration for remarkable services in this field of activity, presented to him by the president of the Republic of Austria, Heinz Fischer.

Pärt himself is still vigorous and ever-present, emanating energy of a far younger person. ERR News joins with many others to wish maestro happy birthday!

A festive crowd, led by conductor Tõnu Kaljuste gathered under the windows of the maestro this morning to wake him up with a song (Photo: Arvo Pärt Center/Facebook).

Celebrations around the world

ERR Kultuur will broadcast Pärt's birthday concert 'Album: Tabula Rasa' from Rakvere, starting at 18:00.

A series of concerts dedicated to Pärt will take place in Estonia and abroad today and over the coming weeks.

Later this evening, Belgian choir Aquarius dedicates a concert to the music of Pärt at La Chapelle Royale in Brussels, Daniel Reuss conduct Pärts's works in front of Cappella Amsterdam at a concert in Muziekgebouw Amsterdam and another concert dedicated to Pärt's genius takes place at Erfurd opera theatre in Germany. For other similar concerts see the calender of Estonian events abroad in our culture section.

At 21:40, ETV will premier the concert recording of Pärt's and Wilson's "Adam's Passion." You can watch it here if you are located in Estonia. Latvia's LTV1 and Polish TVP will also air the permance today, while YLE, BBC and NRK will screen it over the weekend. ARTE, as well as Japanese, Swiss and Swedish national broadcasters have also obtained rights for the film and show it later this year.

“The Lost Paradise,” a documentary about Pärt, Wilson and their coproduction by renowned French director Andy Sommer, can be watched here.

S. Tambur, M. Oll

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