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Your musical interlude for the day brought to you by Arvo Part.

 

The music provokes very sad feelings but there is also a very sad story behind it. Arvo Part had always wanted to meet Benjamin Britten and saw him as the only composer he had something in common with. But since Estonia was under communist rule, Part could not visit Britten in the United Kingdom. The year Estonia opened up Britten had already died, thus Part wrote this composition as a sad memory for missing a friend just too late.

The work was commissioned by Jordi Savall for a peace concert in Barcelona on 1 July 2004. Pärt began the composition two days after the 2004 Madrid train bombings, in memory of the victims. It was first recorded on 29 March 2005 by the Hilliard Ensemble in St. Gerold, Austria. In Spain, it has been performed annually to commemorate the victims.

The text is a 6th or 7th-century hymn based on biblical verses 2 Kings 20:19, 2 Chronicles 20:12,15 and Psalms 72:6-7. Da pacem Domine is in one movement and takes about five minutes to perform. It was originally set for four voices. Pärt later wrote several versions, also for voices and string orchestra, and for instruments alone, string quartet or string orchestra. They were published by Universal Edition. The first performance for the version for voices and string orchestra was in Tallinn on 18 May 2007 at the Niguliste Church, with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste.

The music critic and writer David Vernier commented on the composer’s subtle techniques of composition, forming the structure of the music from “elemental materials” such as “sonority, voicing, and rudimentary harmonies”. Vernier noted “an almost complete subordination of rhythmic influence and the relegation of melody to a more or less implied presence”.

Performers : Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Paul Hillier (2006) Some details are different from the score.

Performers : Paul Hillier / Estonian Chamber Choir

Arvo Pärt set the Latin text of the Magnificat canticle in 1989. It is a composition for five-part choir (SSATB) a cappella, with several divided parts. The composition is in tintinnabuli style, a style which Pärt had invented in the mid-1970s.

Tintinnabulation is the most important aspect of Pärt’s Magnificat. According to Pärt’s biographer and friend Paul Hillier, the Magnificat “displays the tintinnabuli technique at its most supple and refined.” Pärt also uses drones; a second-line G in the alto near the end of the piece, as well as the third-space C (on which the soprano solo line always stays) which provides a tonal center for the piece. Hillier says that “many pieces [by Pärt] tend through length and repetition to establish a sense of timelessness or a continual present; the use of drones (which are in a sense a continuous repetition) reinforces this effect.”

Who is Silvia? what is she
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her
That she might admired be
Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness
Love doth to her eyes repair
To help him of his blindness
And, being help’d, inhabits there
Then to Silvia let us sing
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring

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