We are singing Arvo Pärt’s Beatitudes at our service on Sunday, 13 February. With his unique compositional voice, Pärt is rightly recognised as one of the leading composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
This inspiring concert recording of the Beatitudes features Patrick Walders conducting the San Diego Summer Choral Festival in 2015.
Pärt’s Beatitudes setting is a good example of his famous tintinnabuli (bell-like) compositional style, as Choir Director Peter Kelsall explains:
“The basic way that Pärt structures the piece in terms of the part writing is that you have two parts moving in arpeggios, and the other two parts usually moving by step. And in this piece throughout it’s the sopranos and the tenors who are moving in the arpeggios and it’s the altos and the basses who are moving by step. So what you tend to get with the arpeggiated parts is the sopranos and tenors are often just swapping between the same two notes. And altos and basses tend to do quite a bit of contrary motion.
“What’s also happening in this piece is that every six bars or so everything goes up by a semitone, effectively. The organ part starts on a bottom d flat then moves to d natural, e flat, e natural, etc. So the choral section is continually rising towards the final amen, which then leads into a spectacular organ toccata. The toccata then begins falling in pitch again and by the end fades away to nothing. The extraordinary thing about this piece, apart from the unique – and unexpected – organ toccata, is that the way Pärt writes harmonic progressions, it’s not obvious that the pitch is rising or falling – it just seems to happen.”