Arvo Pärt was born in Paide, Estonia on September 11, 1935, but spent most of his childhood in the little town of Rakvere. He studied in Tallinn, where his teachers included Harry Otsa, Veljo Tormis, and Heino Eller. Even while still a student, Pärt found work at Estonian Radio as a recording engineer, and also composed music for theatre and film productions, freelance employment which continued for a number of years. His children’s cantata Meie Aed (1959) won an all-State competition, but he also received censure for Nekrolog (1960), an orchestral work espousing serial technique. Throughout the 1960s he wrote a number of increasingly modernist instrumental works which culminated in the 1968 Credo, controversial for its religious title. He then partly withdrew from composition, to study plainsong, early music, and generally to rethink his life and approach toward composition. In 1976 he produced the first pieces in a style he called ‘tintinnabuli’ – these pieces earned him renewed criticism for their tonal simplicity and religious content, and his freedom of movement was continually restricted by the Soviet authorities. Eventually he and his wife were able to emigrate in 1980, first to Vienna, then settling in Berlin, which has remained their principal home ever since. During the 1980s and ’90s Pa?rt’s tintinnabuli music became internationally famous. The composer now divides his time between Berlin, England and Estonia, as well as making numerous foreign journeys to attend performances of his work.

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