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Arvo Part (Oxford Studies of Composers) [Paperback]

Paul Hillier
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Jun 1997 Oxford Studies of Composers
The music of the Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt is a unique and powerful voice in the contemporary world. Using a tonal idiom based on a mixture of scales and triads, Pärt created a style that he calls `tintinnabuli'. Listening to it, one is reminded of the passionate and tranquility of some Russian icon, or of certain memorable scenes in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.

In this book, the first full-length study of Pärt, Paul Hillier explores the tintinnabuli works in considerable depth. He also examines the music of Pärt's earlier, somewhat neglected serial period, and charts the composer's steady evolution towards the `abstract tonality' of his later years.

In addition, a biographical chapter and discussion of topics such as Russian Orthodox spirituality, minimalism, and the influence of early music, combine to make this a substantial introduction to Pärt's music. Hillier also draws on his own experience of working with the composer to offer thoughts on various performance issues.

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Arvo Part (Oxford Studies of Composers) + Arvo Part in Conversation (Estonian Literature) + The Cambridge Companion to Arvo Pärt (Cambridge Companions to Music)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (1 Jun 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198166168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198166160
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.9 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 524,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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."..[a] marvelous study of Arvo Part."--Books and Culture."..there is much that Hillier explores well here-thoroughly, appropriately, and revealingly."--American Record Guide

About the Author

Paul Hillier is Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis. He has made over forty recordings as a singer and conductor and is the editor of 300 Years of Partsongs, English Romantic Partsongs (OUP), The Catch Book (OUP), and Le Beau Ballet d'Amour.

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ALL music emerges from silence, to which sooner or later it must return. Read the first page
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive study of Pärt 11 May 1999
By A Customer
With the current (unjustifiable) lack of material concerning Pärt, Hillier has set out to cover as many issues as possible. There is biographical information, analytical (but accessible) studies of the principle works, and even suggestions for the way performers should approach the pieces. If there were a hundred books on Pärt, this would still be a powerful companion for anyone wishing to learn more about this composer.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide to Part's music for beginners & experts 2 April 2000
By "jovaldo" - Published on Amazon.com
Paul Hillier is certainly qualified to write a book about the music of Arvo Part. Not only is Hillier a brilliant musician in his own right, but he has collaborated with Part many times in the last decade or so to produce many splendid recordings as well as giving many world premier concert performances of Part's work. Here we are given "an insider view" on how this music was written. Short of Part writing a book himself, this is the closest a listener will ever get to being inside the mind of this enigmatic, quite, reserved and extremely gifted composer. There is only about 10 pages or so devoted to biography, the rest is purely about the music.
Hillier's explanations of the pieces are so thorough that one can literally read along with the book while listening to the corresponding piece of music and never get lost. Hillier has done a splendid job with the writing because it is quite technical and will certainly give musicians and other composers insight into Part's structural ideas. The crowning achievement though is that the book can also be read (with only slight difficulty) by those that have no musical training. I can't read music or play any instruments, and I seldom felt lost while reading, despite the technical terminology (one can pick up a lot from context.)
The only problem with the book is that it was published in 1997, so it doesn't have commentary on his newest works like "Kanon Pokjanen." That one flaw, however, is tiny and can be easily overlooked in light of it valuble insight into the world and music of Arvo Part.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly 9 Sep 2000
By Mark Swinton - Published on Amazon.com
Paul Hillier has been a leading exponent of Arvo Part's music for many years now, and this book is yet another delectable fruit of his relationship with the composer and his music.
The book is divided into very neat chapters, giving a thorough and systematic break-down of Part's musical career- from his neo-classical student works to his early experiments with serialism (he was the first Estonian composer to write serial music); his period of silence when he sought a new, simpler means of self-expression; and finally his discovery of the "tintinnabuli" style. Paul Hillier's first encounter with Part was through performing his tintinnabuli works, thus the book focusses mostly on them. Performers and critics have often complained that the music is too simple; Hillier reveals that there is more to it than meets the eye, and in particular his descriptions of the large-scale cantatas such as "Passio" and "Miserere" make for solid reading. Impressively, Hillier does not neglect the earlier serial works such as "Nekrolog" and the controversial "Credo" - music that sounds almost like that of another composer. Perhaps disappointingly, he opts not to go into Part's biographical details beyond a basic account of his childhood musical experiences and the problems he faced for many years in his Soviet-annexed homeland. He does however explore Russian Orthodox views on music and minimalism, an understanding of which is helpful in developing an understanding of Part's music. Finally, he offers his ideas on performing it: an extremely well-written and useful chapter, as is the appendix which lists the key recordings of most of the tintinnabuli and some of the serial works.
It takes some getting into: Hillier reveals himself to be a fine musicologist and makes some very detailed analyses, but many of the terms he uses can be baffling to the casual reader. Music students are thus the likeliest customers to benefit from the purchase of this book. As a music student myself, I find this book 'un-put-downable'!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars important research 20 Sep 2013
By Tord Kalvenes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very well written! The writer tells both the story of the person and the composer in a splended and interesting way.
6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather biased and interested mostly in tintinnabuli, but informative 4 Nov 2005
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Arvo Part has become one of the most widely recognized contemporary composers, mainly due to his accessible "tintinnabuli" style of minimalism, and this entry in the Oxford Studies of Composers series is the first major English-language treatment of his career. The author, Paul Hillier, a recognized specialist in early music, performer in the Hilliard Ensemble, and artistic director of the Theatre of Voices, has often performed Part's music.

This study contains no real biography, but is organized as a chronological exploration of Part's work. The works of the 1960s, first with a dedication to serialism and then making heavy use of collage, are rather hastily covered in a single chapter; clearly Hillier is most concerned with tintinnabuli. The technique in general has a chapter to itself, and then each of the works is analysed. Quotations from the score abound, and knowledge of music theory is necessary. The most extensive coverage is that of "Passio", essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand the work. As a sort of appendix, Hillier includes some advice for musicians who would perform Part's music.

I've generally been unhappy with Part's "holy minimalism", as much of his oeuvre contains no clear theology and lets the listener find whatever he wants in it. He has been most successful when he put his services to the work of the Orthodox Church as in "Litany" and "Kanon Pokajanen" where there is no room for differing opinion. Hillier's study, however did help me better appreciate certain tintinnabuli works. The "Passio", for instance, is now revealed as a work of ingenious design and subtlety, but I still think "Fur Alina" is some kind of practical joke, and I still can't find much good to say about the "Berliner Messe"

My biggest complaint about the work, however, is that Hillier is extremely uncritical towards Part's music, taking turns towards the hagiographical and assuming that if it came from Part it must be good. He often dismisses more substantial methods of composition, such as serialism, insinuating that no one could enjoy them. As one who enjoys the serialism of Boulez, the zahlenmystik of Gubaidulina, the massive harmonies of Lindberg, and the mathematical precision of Xenakis much more than the entertaining-but-usually-wispy music of Part, I find it offensive that Hillier tries to say what his readers should or shouldn't like. Also, I regret that the book came too early to cover the massive "Kanon Pokajanen", which I think will go down as the composer's masterwork and a lasting contribution to Orthodox hymnography, but Hillier does briefly mention the prototypical sketches that Part had already begun to write for that work.

If you enjoy the music of Part, especially the "Passio", Hillier's study is worth picking up for, in spite of its clear bias, it is a useful musicological analysis.
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