Festina lente — dedication to Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt

Description

FESTINA LENTE — DEDICATION TO ARVO PÄRT

Conductor: Teodor Currentzis
Principal Chorus Master: Vitaly Polonsky

Performed by musicAeterna Chorus, musicAeterna Orchestra, and ByzantiAeterna Choir (Cyprus)

The programme includes Arvo Pärt’s works and Byzantine chants

With the support of Aksenov Family Foundation
The official representative of ByzantiAeterna Choir in Russia: RDI.Creative

The concert is dedicated to a living composer, one of the pillars of the 20th & 21st-century music: Arvo Pärt. Estonian-born, familiar with all the contemporary musicians and often reacting to current events with his music, Pärt, however, is much more inclined to follow his own path which is equally distant from any national, historic, political, and even artistic context.

Moving throughout his life from serialism to minimalism, from the 20th-century avant-garde to the late-Medieval polyphony, from the Lutheran to the Orthodox tradition, Arvo Pärt internalizes all these external cultural codes via his own experience. Even his unique composing technique, tintinnabuli (customized plural form of the Latin tintinnabulum, a bell), based on the mathematically calculated combination of two voices: one delineating the main theme, the other ringing rhythmically. All this allows creating amazingly simple ethereal chamber masterpieces.

Pärt’s compositions of various years and for various choruses, chosen by musicAeterna chorus and musicAeterna orchestra for the Festival, totally represent the integrity of his musical thought. Thus, for example, the title piece of the concert, Festina lente (1988—1990), truly justifies its meaning — from Latin ‘make haste slowly’: three voices distributed between the groups of strings develop the same melody in different tempi while maintaining amazing harmony.

A sacred piece Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima, composed in 2014, was inspired by the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the little shepherds near the Portuguese city of Fátima but is dedicated to the German abstractionist painter Gerhard Richter.

Another piece, De Profundis (1980), a psalm set to music, is dedicated to the Austrian composer Gottfried von Einem. This score, along with An den Wassern zu Babel saßen wir und weinten (1976—1984), is a brilliant example of the tintinnabuli technique where the chorus is softly highlighted by the organ. Pärt’s unusual approach to English texts is displayed in My Heart’s in the Highlands (2000), to the poem by Robert Burns, and The Deer’s Cry (2007), to a liturgical text written supposedly by Saint Patrick himself.

The second part of the concert is performed by ByzantiAeterna and consists entirely of the Orthodox hymns, including A Scared Easter, The Angel Cried, the Trisagion, O Gladsome Light, and Day of Resurrection. This music that stems from the early Christian and Byzantine traditions will be sung in Greek, which has a close connection with Arvo Pärt’s biography. His conversion from Protestantism to Orthodoxy way back in the 1970s had a great impact on his artistic explorations.

Founded in 2011 and forged in the premieres of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre and tours and festivals in Europe, musicAeterna Chorus has firmly established itself as one the most sought-after ensembles in the world. Within a single year, 2018, it won three major prizes: Opera Awards, Casta Diva, and the ‘Golden Mask’. The chorus’s repertoire comprises pieces of various genres and time periods, its singing technique is mostly authentic. Its programmes include Baroque compositions, Russian choral music of the 18th—20th centuries, and contemporary music. Each singer here is a soloist, and together they reach incredible focus and perfect synergy, guided by their principal chorus master Vitaly Polonsky.

The chorus has toured Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Athens, Paris, Lisbon, Hamburg, Ferrara, Munich, Cologne, and Krakow. In 2015, the chorus performed at the Aix-en-Provence Festival; in 2016, at the RUHRtriennale in Bochum. Every year since 2017, musicAeterna Chorus has been taking part in the Salzburg Festival. The chorus collaborates with such ensembles as the Perm musicAeterna Orchestra, the French Le Poème Harmonique, and the international Mahler Chamber Orchestra. At the Diaghilev Festival 2019 musicAeterna shares the stage with the Cyprian choir ByzantiAeterna.

The choir’s name, ByzantiAeterna (‘Eternal Byzantium’ in Greek), speaks for itself. Founded by the conductor Teodor Currentzis in 2018 as a member of the musicAeterna ‘family,’ the new choir is meant to rediscover the treasures of Byzantine musical culture, including the ancient Greek church singing. The choir works under the tenor Antonios Koutroupis, an alumnus of the vocal department of the Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory, and an honorary right-side cantor of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice.

The choir consists of twelve best graduates of schools of Byzantine music in Greece. Apart from having many-year experience of singing Byzantine chants, each of them has been listening to this music since childhood and has come a long way from a common reader to a right-side cantor, the principal position in a Byzantine Choir. The concert at the Diaghilev Festival together with musicAeterna Chorus is ByzantiAeterna’s first performance in Russia.

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