Arvo Pärt Centre aims to preserve and present the creative heritage of the composer Arvo Pärt

eBulletin sign up

Sign up for the eBulletin. Enter your details below to subscribe to our English language mailing list.

Newsletter image

Biography (1/2)

  • 1935 born on 11 September in Paide, Estonia.
  • 1938 moved with his mother to Rakvere, Estonia.
  • 1945–53 Rakvere Music School, piano studies with Ille Martin; first attempts at composition.
  • 1950–54 Rakvere High School.
  • 1954 Tallinn Music School, composition studies with Harri Otsa.
  • 1954–56 Military service at Soviet Army, playing oboe, percussion and piano in the Military Band.
  • 1956 continuation of studies at music school, now with Veljo Tormis.
  • 1957–63 Tallinn Conservatory, composition studies with Heino Eller.
  • 1958–67 Sound Engineer at Estonian Radio.
  • Since 1967 Freelance composer.
  • 1958-68 First creative period starting with neo-classicist piano music; experiments with serial techniques, aleatoricism, collage and sonic fields. Works like Nekrolog (1960), Perpetuum mobile (1963), Collage sur B-A-C-H (1964), two symphonies (1963 and 1966), Pro et contra (1966).
  • 1968 Credo, conclusion of his first creative period. In this work the confrontation between two musical worlds – Bach's Prelude in C Major (WTC 1) and Pärt's own dodecaphonic music attains its most dramatic expression. An open affirmation of Christian faith causedthe scandal in Soviet Estonia and the piece immediately became banned.
  • 1968-76 New artistic reorientation. In search of a new musical language, he studied Gregorian chant, the Notre Dame School and renaissance polyphony. Pärt's long silence was broken only by the Symphony No. 3 (1971), his sole authorized transitional work from this period.
  • 1976 Für Alina is the first composition in tintinnabuli-technique (tintinnabulum – Latin for 'little bell'), which inspires his ouvre to this day. The musical material of Pärt's works is extremely concentrated, reduced to the essential.
  • 1976–77 15 tintinnabuli-compositions, including Tabula rasa, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, Fratres, Summa.
    Première of Tabula rasa in Tallinn, September 30, 1977 by Gidon Kremer (violin), Tatiana Grindenko (violin), Alfred Schnittke (piano), Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and conductor Eri Klas.
  • 1980 emigration to Vienna; contract with the publisher Universal Edition.
  • 1981 Grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), moving to Berlin.
  • 1982 Passio, commissioned by Bavarian Radio and premiered in Munich by the Bavarian Radio Choir, soloists, instrumental ensemble and organ, conductor Gordon Kember.
  • 1984 beginning of the creative collaboration with the CD label ECM and producer Manfred Eicher. Release of the CD Tabula rasa, which launched a whole new series of recordings under the title ECM New Series. Since then all authorised first recordings of major works with ECM.
  • 1985 Stabat Mater, commissioned by Alban Berg Foundation and premiered in Vienna by the Hilliard Ensemble, Gidon Kremer (violin), Nabuko Imai (viola) and David Geringas (violoncello).
    Te Deum, premiered in Cologne by the Kölner Rundfunkchor, Kölner RSO and conductor Dennis Russell Davies.
  • 1989 Miserere, commissioned by and premiered at Festival d'Eté de Seine-Maritime, Rouen, by Hilliard Ensemble, The Western Wind Chamber Choir and Instrumental Ensemble, conductor Paul Hillier.
  • 1989-2011 Eight Grammy nominations mostly for the best contemporary composition.
  • 1990 Berliner Messe, commissioned by 90. Deutschen Katolikentages Berlin and premiered in Berlin by Theatre of Voices and conductor Paul Hillier.
  • 1991 Honorary membership of Royal Swedish Academy of Music, Stockholm.
    Silouans Song, commissioned by Svenska Rikskonserter and premiered in Rättvik, Sweden by Chamber Orchestra of the festival Music at Lake Siljan and conductor Karl-Ove Mannberg.
  • 1994 Litany, premiered in Eugene, USA, by the Hilliard Ensemble, Oregon Bach Festival Chorus and Orchestra, conductor Helmut Rilling.
  • 1996 Honorary membership of American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
    Dopo la vittoria, commissioned by the City of Milan in commemoration of the 1600th anniversary of the death of Saint Ambrose and premiered in Milano in 1997 by Swedish Radio Choir and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste.
  • 1997 Kanon Pokajanen, composed for Cologne Cathedral's 750-year anniversary, premiered in 1998 in Cologne Cathedral by Tõnu Kaljuste and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.
  • 1998 Como cierva sedienta, commissioned by and premiered at the Festival de Música de Canarias in 1999, by Patricia Rozario, Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Okko Kamu.
  • 1999 Cantique des degrés, commissioned by the Princess of Hanover for the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco; premiered in Monaco Cathedral by Monte Carlo Opera Choir, Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste.
  • 2000 Cecilia, vergine romana, commissioned by Agenzia Romana for the events of Holy Year 2000; premiered in Auditorium Roma by the Choir and Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conductor Myung-Whun Chung.
    Receives the Herder Prize, Germany.
  • 2002 Lamentate, for piano and orchestra, subtitled Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture 'Marsyas', premiered in 2003 in London, in the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall by Hélène Grimaud, London Sinfonietta and conductor Alexander Briger.
  • 2003 Classic Brit Award – Contemporary Music Award for Orient & Occident
    In principio, commissioned by Diocese Graz-Seckau for the program "Graz 2003 – Culture Capital of Europe" and premiered by choir pro musica graz and Capella Istropolitana, conductor Michael Fendre.
  • 2004 Da pacem Domine, a cappella work commissioned by Jordi Savall. In 2007 a recording of the piece (in collaboration with Estonian Philharmonic Choir and conductor Paul Hillier; Harmonia Mundi) wins Grammy Award as best choral recording.
    L'abbé Agathon, commissioned by l'Association l'Octuor de Violoncelles / Rencontres d'Ensembles de Violoncelles de Beauvais and premiered in Beauvais by Barbara Hendricks and Beauvais Cello Octet.
  • 2005 La Sindone, commissioned by Festival Torino Settembre Musica for the Olympic Winter Games 2006 in Turin and premiered in Turin Cathedral by Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Olari Elts.
    Composer of the Year, Musical America, USA.
  • 2008 Receives the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark, and composes „These words...", commissioned by Léonie Sonning Music Fond and premiered by Danish National Radio SO and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste in Copenhagen.
    Symphony No. 4, 'Los Angeles', premiered in 2009 by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, USA. The work receives its UK premiere at the BBC Proms in 2010.
    Stabat Mater, new version for mixed choir and string orchestra, commissioned by Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich; premiered in Musikverein, Vienna, by Tonkünstler Orchester and Wiener Singverein, concuctor Kristjan Järvi.
  • 2010 Adam's Lament, commissioned by Cultural Capital Istanbul 2010 and Cultural Capital Tallinn 2011, premiered in Hagia Irene, Istanbul by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Vox Clamantis, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste.
    The International Arvo Pärt Centre is established in Laulasmaa, Estonia, which holds composer's personal archive.
    Celebrations of Pärt's 75th birthday include three international conferences: „Arvo Pärt and Contemporary Spirituality Conference" at Boston University, „Arvo Pärt: Soundtrack of an Age" at London's Southbank Centre and „The Cultural Roots of Arvo Pärt's Music" in The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Tallinn.
  • 2011 Returnes to Estonia where he resides today.
    Classic Brit Award – Composer of the Year for Symphony No. 4.
    Honorary Doctorate of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, Vatican.
    Is elected first ever Academician for Music by the Estonian Academy of Sciences.
    Member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Vatican.
  • 2012 BBC's one-day festival „Total Immersion" in London, dedicated to the music of Arvo Pärt.
    Estonian Music Council Composition Award.
    Prize of the International Festival Cervantino, Mexico.
    Honorary Doctorate of University of Lugano, Faculty of Theology, Switzerland.
  • 2013 Special program of concerts dedicated to the music of Arvo Pärt held in Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, August 9.–11. Kanon pokajanen, Te Deum, Adam's Lament, Tabula rasa and Symphony No. 3 were performed among others.
  • During the 2013/2014 academic year, Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Tartu. Lectures on Arvo Pärt are given by Professor Toomas Siitan (Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre).
  • 2014 Swan-Song, new version of Littlemore Tractus for orchestra, commissioned by and to be premiered in Mozart Woche 2014, January 29, Salzburg, by Wiener Philharmoniker and conductor Marc Minkowski.