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Music of renowned Estonian composer Arvo Pärt comes to U.S. for rare performance

Washington, D.C. --- The Kennedy Center will host a rare concert this month featuring works by renowned Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, and amazingly, the event is free of charge.

The Kennedy Center will host a rare concert this month featuring works by renowned Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, and amazingly, the event is free of charge.  The performance will include 50 Estonian musicians conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste.
Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas / Arvo Pärt Centre

The performance will include 50 Estonian musicians from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste. They will perform the music of Pärt in Washington, D.C. and New York. Maestro Pärt and President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will attend the Kennedy Center performance.

Pärt is a prominent composer who has had a significant role in the course of 20th century music. “He is one of the milestones that indicate changes, new paths and new quality,” explains Kristina Kõrver, Estonian musicologist and editor in Arvo Pärt Centre. Since 1976, when he found his own musical language -- a unique compositional style and technique called tintinnabuli -- his music has reached millions of people across the globe and it continues to fascinate listeners regardless of age, nation, culture, profession, etc. Critics, musicians and music lovers alike recognize the originality, strength and beauty of his works and have done so for almost four decades, Kõrver observes.

“We cannot measure art and definitely not by top charts,” Kõrver says. But nevertheless she notes that for the last three years, Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world according to Bachtrack.

Many of his works, such as Für Alina, Fratres, Tabula rasa, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten or Spiegel im Spiegel -- all recorded and released by ECM New Series -- have gained the popularity and influence uncommon to contemporary classical music as they are performed not only in concert halls but also used in films, in dance and theater productions, in multimedia performances and so on.

To call Pärt one of the key-figures and living legends in contemporary music would not be an exaggeration, Kõrver points out. "To have the opportunity to listen to the all-Pärt program performed by the musicians recommended by composer himself would surely be a memorable experience for the audience."

Other well-known works include “Adam’s Lament“ -- Pärt’s latest large-scale work -- will be performed and conducted by Kaljuste, who recently won the Grammy for the recording "Adam's Lament" (for ECM Records).

"Adam's Lament" could be considered one of Pärt’s main works, Kõrver adds, an idea of which came to him already in the early 1990s, but the score was not completed until 2010. "Adam's Lament" was commissioned by the European Capitals of Culture Istanbul 2010 and Tallinn 2011 and premiered in June 2010 in Hagia Irene Church, Istanbul by Estonian and Turkish musicians conducted by Kaljuste.

There is a beautiful quote by Pärt related to the central idea of his music and the text written by St. Silouan the Athonite:

"Adam is the father of us all. Regardless from which viewpoint we look at it -- the farther we move away the clearer we can see that we are all in the same boat… Look, there are many countries in our world, and with the passing of time they become more and more different. But they do not become more different in a good sense, but in a bad sense. How do countries actually exist side by side? Their means of communication can be political, economic or cultural; that is the world we see, our life, which is well accepted by our intellect. And it appears that the intellect is unable to deal with anything beyond that. But that is not really much help to us. It would help us if we could say -- and not only say it but also feel it -- that your child is also my child, and my child is also your child. That should at least mean that you are my brother and my sister, but in this case we would all be related. Perhaps we are? But the roots we can only find in the distant past. The world is a unified organism. If one tooth aches, the whole body is in pain, if one person suffers, the whole world suffers, although we do not always recognize it right away."

Estonian Ambassador Marina Kaljurand says the embassy "has been preparing for the Kennedy Center concert for more than a year. In addition to the generous donation from the Estonian Government and the Kennedy Center's willingness to accommodate this event in their Millennium Stage program, the Embassy has been raising funds to cover the rest of the costs. The donations have come from the Estonian-American community: organizations, Honorary Consuls and private persons."

"This is a truly unique event and a definite highlight of Estonian Cultural Diplomacy in the U.S.," Ambassador Kaljurand notes. "We have been working really hard on making this event a reality -- a one of a kind opportunity to experience a world class performance for free, in the presence of Arvo Pärt -- a living luminary of contemporary classical music."

"The President of Estonia will also be there," she adds. "We are all happy to be a part of making this event happen."

The free concert at the Kennedy Center takes place on May 27 at 6 p.m. in the concert hall which seats about 2400 people. Seating for this public event is provided on a first-come first-serve basis and subject to capacity. See the FAQ section on the Estonia in Concert website for ticket details and the Estonia in Concert facebook page. Information on additional performances planned in both New York and Washington, D.C. appears on the Arvo Pärt Project website.

Other suggested links:

Arvo Pärdi Keskuse

Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir’s Seminary

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