BBC Proms give chance to listen to Arvo Pärt's mesmerizing setting of the Passion according to St. John
Finished in 1982, but not published until 1989, Estonian Arvo Pärt's setting of the Passion according to St. John is large-scale proof of the incredible power of the composer's unique composition style. The BBC Singers along with a host of able guests delivered a stirring performance of the hour-long work during BBC Prom No. 43 on Tuesday night at Royal Albert Hall -- a concert that's available for free streaming on the web for a week.
It may not seem like ideal listening material for the end of summer, but Pärt's music has a hypnotic quality that provides its own mind-clearing rewards.
The broadcast begins with a brief overview of everything you need to know about the music. The repeated note patters and voice-instrument doubling may seem simplistic on the surface, but they rapidly create a self-sufficient sound world, if you let yourself slip inside the music.
I may be reducing this down too much, but, essentially, Pärt puts all of his musical faith in the ages-old poetic power of repetition and variation. The vocal score below, showing three measures from Pärt's Miserere (1989), show in colour how he interweaves and staggers his musical motifs: