Estonian-born composer Arvo Part, who turns 60 this year, is an archdeacon of the neomedieval movement. Like many others in the movement, including Henryk Gorecki and John Tavener, he started out infatuated with serialism, then saw its limitations and turned to medieval and folk music for inspiration. Part has developed a distinctive style he calls “tintinnabuli” for its preponderance of bell-like sounds that evoke a monastery. His choral pieces, many of which set traditional texts, are subtler than Gorecki’s and more chaste than Tavener’s. They convey a solemn, timeless spirituality that makes them more than mere re-creations of medieval chants, in part because of an ingenious instrumentation that’s rich in present-day sonorities. A prime example is his Te Deum from the mid-80s: the familiar liturgical text is sung to the accompaniment of a string orchestra and the modernist tools of a “prepared” piano and a pretaped recording of a wind harp. The work has a haunting beauty enlivened by delicate coloristic touches. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, under Tonu Kaljuste’s direction, recorded this work, which is now the main attraction of their first North American tour. Also on the program are Part’s Magnificat and Silouans Songs, along with works by other composers on the Baltic choral scene, including Einojuhani Rautavaara, Cyrillus Kreek, and Veljo Tormis. A Bach cantata is offered as an obvious influence. Saturday, 8 PM, K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple, 1100 E. Hyde Park; 772-5463 or 663-1628.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tonu Tormis.