The first piece of my next recital, also one of my personal all time favourites, is called "Fratres" and is written in 1977 by the famous Estonian composer Arvo Pärt exemplifying his "tintinnabuli" style of composition. It is a simple style invented by him influenced by the gregorian chants, and it is characterized by slow and meditative tempis, and a minimalist approach to both notation and perfomance.
"Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation."
"I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener." – from the essay White Light by Hermann Conen, as translated into English by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart (found in the liner notes of the ECM release of Alina).
"Tintinnabuli is the mathematically exact connection from one line to another.....tintinnabuli is the rule where the melody and the accompaniment [accompanying voice]...is one. One and one, it is one – it is not two. This is the secret of this technique." – from a conversation between Arvo Pärt and Antony Pitts recorded for BBC Radio 3 at the Royal Academy of Music in London on 29 March 2000, as printed in the liner notes of the Naxos Records release of Passio
Structurally, "Fratres" consists of a set of nine chord sequences, separated by a recurring percussion motif (the so-called "refuge"). The chord sequences themselves follow a pattern, and while the progressing chords explore a rich harmonic space, they have been generated by means of a simple formula.
"Fratres" is driven by three main voices. The low and high voice are each restricted to playing notes from the D harmonic minor scale (D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C#); the middle voice is restricted to the notes of the A minor triad (A, C, E) - this is called the "tintinnabular voice". The entire piece is accompanied by drones in A and E, which are primarily heard in the refuge between each sequence. This duality of the 2 types of voice is the main charachteristic of "Tintinnabuli" style of composition.
The piece is often performed by violin and piano, but is also familiar in versions for larger groups of musicians. This particular arrangement is dedicated to Elena and Gidon Kremer.
I am very happy and excited to perform it for the first time on the 21st of November!