Renowned Estonian-German composer turns 80

Renowned Estonian-German composer turns 80
Photo: DPA
As Arvo Pärt celebrates his 80th birthday on September 11th, the Estonian-born composer who adopted German nationality can look back on decades of fame, respect and awe from around the globe.

World-famous classical composer Arvo Pärt turns 80 today. However, the veteran composer is far from retired.

Just last year, Pärt won a Grammy for Adam's Lament, a choral and orchestra compostition performed in Russian.

And in May this year, Adam's Passion premiered in Estonian capital Tallinn.

The composition is a collaboration with stage director and playright Robert Wilson.

From Tallinn to Berlin

Born in Estonia in 1935, Pärt played oboe and percussion in a military band and was writing his own compositions while in his early teens.

He studied at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (then the Tallinn Conservatory) – where, writes Pärt's biographer Paul Hillier, others said “he just seemed to shake his sleeves and the notes would fall out.”

Pärt and his wife emigrated to Berlin in 1981, along with their two sons. With a fluent grasp of German, Pärt is officially a German citizen – and in recent years has split his time between Berlin and Tallinn.

A quiet genius

Dubbed the world's most popular classical composer by Die Welt, Pärt is also notoriously difficult to get hold of. The composer doesn't generally give interviews nowadays, reports Welt.

Reserved and taciturn, Pärt's attitude towards interviews seems similar to that of his compositions – mystic and minimalist.

He uses his own original style of composition: the slow and meditative Tintinnabuli.

In a style often described as New Simplicity, or New Age, Pärt usually works with just one or two voices, and minimal instruments – describing his materials as “primitive.”

“I realised that it was enough simply to play one note beautifully,” Pärt told Die Welt.

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