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Arvo Pärt

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Paide, Järva County, Estonia

Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) is an Estonian composer, often identified with the school of minimalism, though he rejects this label (and, even more vehemently, the label of “holy minimalism”, which he describes as meaningless).

Born on 11th September 1935 in Paide, Järva County, Estonia), his musical studies began in 1954 at the Tallinn Music Secondary School, interrupted less than a year later while he fulfilled his National Service obligation as oboist and side-drummer in an army band. He returned to Middle School for a year before joining the Tallinn Conservatory in 1957, where his composition teacher was Professor Heino Eller. Pärt started work as a recording engineer with Estonian Radio, wrote music for the stage and received numerous commissions for film scores so that, by the time he graduated from the Conservatory in 1963, he could already be considered a professional composer. A year before leaving, he won first prize in the All-Union Young Composers’ Competition for a children’s cantata, Our Garden, and an oratorio, Stride of the World.

Today Arvo Pärt is best known for his choral works, which he started to produce in the 1980s, after his emigration from the former Soviet Union to Germany, Berlin. Before that he had written his most recognised works from the 1970s, Fratres, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, and Tabula Rasa. In 1978 Pärt composed Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror).

Pärt’s oeuvre is generally divided into two periods. His early works ranged from rather severe neo-classical styles influenced by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bartók.

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