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Part Companion

It is surprising that there has been comparatively little written so far about Arvo Pärt (b. 1935), since he is one of the most influential and widely performed contemporary composers and has written music in a wide variety of genres. There is currently only one book in English devoted exclusively to Pärt’s music (Hillier: Arvo Pärt, 1997). It is truly extraordinary that until recently the only other information and critical engagement with Pärt’s music comes from short articles and some unofficial websites.

This Companion aims to redress the balance. The collection maintains an appropriate level of academic writing and critical engagement with the material but at the same time is of sufficient interest to a broad audience and written in a style comprehensible to the general reader.

This work is pioneering on five counts: first, it makes a important addition to Pärt studies providing much needed perspective on the composer and his music; second, it makes a significant contribution to discussions about spirituality in music; third, it uses and develops cross-disciplinary methodologies drawing on media studies, theological studies and different analytical approaches to music; fourth, by working on issues of interpretation, it endeavors to bridge the traditional gap between scholars and performers; and fifth, it addresses directly the largest group of people who come across Pärt’s music: the audience.


The volume includes essays by leading Pärt scholars such as Jeffers Engelhardt (Amherst College), Leopold Brauneiss (University of Vienna), Laura Dolp (Montclair State University), and Benjamin Skipp (Oxford University). It also includes new source material from the composer published for the first time in English, along with information on his chronology, a works list, and a comprehensive bibliography.

Table of Contents


1 Introduction: the essential and phenomenal Arvo Pärt
Andrew Shenton

2 A narrow path to the truth: Arvo Pärt and the 1960s and 1970s in Soviet Estonia
Immo Mihkelson

3 Arvo Pärt after 1980
Jeffers Engelhardt

4 Musical archetypes: the basic elements of the tintinnabuli Style
Leopold Brauneiss

5 Analyzing Pärt
Thomas Robinson

6 Arvo Pärt: in his own words
Andrew Shenton

7 Bells as inspiration for tintinnabulation
Marguerite Bostonia

8 Arvo Pärt and spirituality
Robert Sholl

9 The minimalism of Arvo Pärt: an ‘antidote’ to modernism and multiplicity?
Benjamin Skipp

10 Arvo Pärt in the marketplace
Laura Dolp

A. Radiating from silence: the works of Arvo Pärt seen through a musician’s eyes
Andreas Peer Kähler
B. Greatly sensitive: Alfred Schnittke in Tallinn
Arvo Pärt
C. Remebering Heino Eller
Arvo Pärt
D. Acceptance speech for the International Bridge Prize of the city of Görlitz
Arvo Pärt
E. Acceptance speech given for the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2008
Arvo Pärt



An error occurred transitioning a screen shot of John Roeder’s elegant analysis of The Beatitudes into the text. Example 5.5 (p. 93 in the 2014 reprint) has incorrect chords listed. D should be Db and C should be c, as shown in this diagram:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 14.32.54

I apologize for this error and thank Dr. Milton Mermikides for spotting the mistake and for making a diagram to show the correction.


This volume is long overdue. Although the music of Arvo Pärt has readily been embraced by audiences, listeners and licensees (providing the soundtrack to many Hollywood films and YouTube clips), the Estonian-born composer has yet to enter the academic press. Joining an august catalogue of previous composer and genre companions from CUP, Andrew Shenton’s volume is a persuasive act of stimulation and provocation. Classical Music Magazine, July 2012.

Pärt’s burgeoning popularity might easily have been taken as an excuse to rebadge old Pärt scholarship in anticipation of a wider audience, but that pitfall has happily been avoided. The diversity of contributor backgrounds and the plurality of critical perspectives on offer only increase the importance of this welcome new volume. Music and Letters 94.1 (2013): 184-187.

This collection, complete with suitable appendixes, is a major contribution to the literature on this important composer. Choice.

Andrew Shenton’s collection is … substantial, with thoughtful and unobvious editorial decisions behind the book’s makeup. The Wire, March 2013, Issue 349, p. 71.

The Companion is published by Cambridge University Press and is available online via the CUP web site, and online stores such as Amazon.