Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arvo Part

The Estonian composer Arvo Part has always been for me an exemplar of what can be achieved post the fragmentation and atonality of modernism. Part, in his early compositions, worked closely with the techniques of Schoenberg and the dissonance which his program encompasses. But what occurred next was to move music in a new and logical (yet undiscovered) direction. Part repatriated the tonal and harmonious, and did so still (somehow) with elements of atonality lingering in the shadows. This seems like a simple synergy of what came before with what was contemporaneous. But a successful combination of these elements had not been achieved with such popular appeal.

Pieces such as Spiegal im Spiegal give a light and harmonious dance that please the ear with their rounded and polished sounds. Alternatively, pieces such as Lamentate and Miserere almost assault the ear with a harsh brilliance that disturbs as it delights. Perhaps Part's greatest work, Cantus in Memoriam of Benjamin Britten bridges the gap, and moves with a tension and indeed ugliness that brushes the sublime and yet is grounded in the commonplace.

Part should be savoured for his achievement. He has once again allowed us to believe in beauty, but in a Baudelairian sense that touches what is uncomfortable, but still very much worth attaining.

No comments: