Berlin Mass

Muziekcentrum De Bijloke, Gent, Belgium
Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 7.00pm

Theatre of Voices visits De Bijloke in Belgium!

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Tickets here

My very first encounter with Pärt’s music took place in 1983 when I read an article about him in a pioneering contemporary music magazine called Contact. The article was by the late Susan Bradshaw, a renowned pianist and champion of such modernist figureheads as Boulez. In retrospect it seems both strange and significant that she, of all people, would write a seminal article about someone whose music marked such a radical departure from the modernist ideal. Some thirty years later the tension between these two divergent musical streams can still be felt.

What caught my attention as I looked at the article were the musical examples. I had the feeling of looking at something I recognised, even though I had never seen it before. In the first place, some of the notes were written without stems and reminded me of the way I sometimes wrote out early medieval music where the rhythmic values were either ambiguous or simply unknown. Secondly, the music itself with its diatonic dissonance seemed profoundly evocative and deeply attuned to my own interests at that time. I recognised that this music represented an important and hitherto unsuspected destination, and that I had to go there.

Today’s concert matches works by Pärt with pieces of medieval music, and thus offers both contrast and similarity, the two sound-worlds being very close. The program features the original version of Pärt’s Berlin Mass which Theatre of Voices premiered in Berlin in 1990. It also juxtaposes several settings of the two related sequences, Veni creator spiritus and Veni sancte spiritus, whose central motif of spiritual inspiration feels very appropriate to this repertoire.

Nina Janjgava is from Georgia: her music echoes the traditional Georgian style, different from yet connected to the aesthetic of Pärt. Kevin Volans is a South African (now resident in Ireland) whose instrumental Walking Song offers a dancing yet sympathetic contrast to the other music.

© Paul Hillier

Berlin Mass


Prelude: Judith Weir: King Haralds Saga

Arvo Pärt: Veni creator
Guillaume de Machaut: Veni creator spiritus/Christe qui lux es
Arvo Pärt: Pari intervallo
Anon C13: Veni creator spiritus
Arvo Pärt: My heart's in the highlands
Anon. Italian C14: Benedicamus
Nino Janjgava: 3 Aliluias (selected from 17 Aliluias op. 44 2008/2009)
Kevin Volans: Walking Song
---- intermission ----
Arvo Pärt: Berlin Mass


Theatre of Voices:
Else Torp, soprano
Iris Oja, alto
Chris Watson, tenor
Jakob Bloch, bass
Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, organ
Paul Hillier, artistic director

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