no religious faith.
Given that, what can explain the fact that far and away the most successful composer of sacred choral music in the world today is the Estonian Arvo Pärt?
Two things: First, whatever other Estonians believe, Pärt is a devout member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and his faith suffuses his music. Second, Pärt discovered a way to compose that combines medieval modality with Romantic tonality and modern atonality. The combination creates a palpable sense of the inevitable entwined with the eternal, of an irresistible force fusing with an immovable object. Together, Pärt’s religious faith and compositional method have fashioned a body of sacred choral music that now figures prominently in the repertoire of choirs around the world.
The choir most closely connected with Pärt’s music is, of course, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. It was in large part the choir’s recordings of his sacred choral works for the German ECM label that helped establish Pärt’s international reputation, just as it was in large part its appearances here in Ann Arbor in 1995 and 1997 that helped establish Pärt’s local reputation.