Where our history lives on!

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Exhibit on display: 30.05-10.09.18.

Exhibit open: Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm, during events, and upon request.
Tartu College, 310 Bloor St. W. Toronto (entrance on Madison Ave.)
Contact nr: 416 925 9405

In Estonian: Eesti Teatri-ja Muusikamuuseumi näitus Arvo Pärt - tuntud ja tundmatu 

Arvo Pärt is one of those composers in the world whose creative output has significantly changed the way we understand the nature of music. Since 1976, his unique tintinnabulicompositions have established a new musical paradigm and introduced an approach to composing that he is still using today. And, although there is no school that follows him, nor does he teach, a large part of the music of the second half of the 20th century has been strongly influenced by Pärt’s tintinnabulicompositions.

Arvo Pärt has been meditating upon one’s sense of belonging and has come to the conclusion that it depends on one’s goals and sources of strength. For Pärt, home is not a piece of land. Just as music surrounds us everywhere, likewise a home can be in Tallinn, as well as Berlin. But apparently, being a cosmopolitan in his creation, from time to time Pärt – like many other people – feels an urge to return to his roots.

Born on September 11, 1935, in the small town of Paide in the very centre of Estonia, he spent his childhood and school years in Rakvere, where he also had his first contacts with music. His composition teacher Heino Eller (1887-1970) and the Tallinn Conservatory played an essential role in his becoming a composer.

Like many young composers of the Soviet Union and Estonia in the 1960s, Pärt searched for his path in the avant-gardestyle, trying dodecaphony and aleatory, mixing different styles and techniques. Attending the contemporary music festival “Autumn of Warsaw” gave him a new impetus for his quest. Quite soon, however, Pärt came to the conclusion that it was a dead end. After years of silence and painful creative exploration, in the middle of the 1970s Pärt arrived at an entirely new style and named it tintinnabuli(Latin: small bells). Pärt´s creative search took him away from the mess of contemporary music and brought him back to the aesthetics of medieval music, Gregorian chant and Flemish polyphony. This helped him reach the very core of music through monody. Thousands of pages of exercises serve as proof of the tremendous work that preceded the right solutions. The composer´s first works in the tintinnabulistyle were presented to the public in 1976 and their reception by the Estonian audience was enthusiastic. 

The surging conflict between power and spirit began already in the 1960s because of Pärt´s avant-gardemusic, which did not conform to the stagnant models of the Soviet cultural policy. In 1980, the authorities recommended that Pärt leave Estonia. In fact, this meant deportation. 

Pärt, having stuck to the tintinnabulistyle, has developed it continuously and used this style to create significant opuses that are often performed all over the world. After Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the ties between the Pärt family and Estonia along with its music scene were restored. In the 1990s, his works were often included in concert programmes in Estonia; the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under the baton of Tõnu Kaljuste also released their first recordings of Pärt’s music under ECM.

In the early 2000s, the tradition of celebrating Arvo Pärt’s birthday began with concerts in his childhood hometowns of Paide and Rakvere, and also in Tallinn. Festivities on a grander scale have been organised in the composer’s jubilee years. In 2005, the first exhaustive collection of conversations, essays and articles on Pärt – Arvo Pärt in the Mirror(Arvo Pärt allo Specchio) compiled by Enzo Restagno – was published in Estonian at the initiative of the Estonian Music Days. The 14-episode radio show “Arvo Pärt 70” by Immo Mihkelson was broadcast on Klassikaraadio (Estonian Classical Radio) also in 2005, and the international conference “The Cultural Roots of Arvo Pärt’s Music” was held at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2010. Since 2010, Pärt Days are held as part of the music festival Nargenfestival around the time of the composer’s birthday. One of the largest music events of 2015 was the performance of Adam’s Passionat Noblessner Foundry, directed by the renowned American director and dramaturge Robert Wilson, and created especially for Arvo Pärt’s music. For the composer’s 80th birthday, the Arvo Pärt Centre published the book In principio. The Word in Arvo Pärt’s Music, and the album and sheet music Songs from Childhood.

Arvo Pärt has lived permanently in Estonia since 2010. The same year, the Arvo Pärt Centre was established in Laulasmaa on the initiative of Arvo and Nora Pärt. In collaboration with the composer himself and his family, the APC aims to create and maintain the personal archive of the composer.

The Estonian Theatre and Music Museum first put the exhibition together in 2005 to celebrate the 70th birthday of Arvo Pärt. The current exhibition is based on the updated version made in 2015.

The exhibition presents the most renowned Estonian composer and is a cultural cooperation project celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Estonian Republic in 2018.


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