Arvo Pärt. Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, for string orchestra & bell. Composition Information ↓; Description ↓; Appears On ↓. Share on. facebook. The BBC work page for Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt. Find upcoming concerts, watch performances, and learn more. Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten has to be one of the most depressive classical works I have heard in a very very long time. Absolutely.
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Cantus in Memory of Benjamin… | Details | AllMusic
Its appeal benjamun often ascribed to its relative simplicity; a single melodic motif dominates and it both begins and ends with scored silence. However, as the critic Ivan Hewett observes, while it brittrn be simple in concept And even where the music really is simple in its audible features, the expressive import of those features is anything but. The cantus was composed as an elegy to mourn the December death of the English composer Benjamin Britten.
Due to its evocative and cinematic feel, the piece has been used extensively as background accompaniment in both film and television documentaries.
What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises — and everything that is unimportant falls away.
Tintinnabulation is like this. Here I am alone with silence. Memoy have wrvo that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me.
Each part except the viola is split into two, with one playing notes from the A minor scale, and the other playing only notes from an A minor chord i. The latter “always signifies the subjective world, memiry daily egoistic life of sin and suffering, [the former] meanwhile, is the objective realm of forgiveness.
The A natural minor scale has some historical connections. The idea of musical modes was known to the ancient Greeks, and each was said to have a specific character which could strongly affect the mind.
The church modes are formed by using the notes of the C major scale i. A parh of A with no black keys is in the Aeolian mode.
Arvo Pärt: Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten
After the three beats of silence that open the score, paet tubular bell is struck three times very quietly pianissimowith 12 beats between the strikes and gap of 18 beats between the groups cabtus three. This bell tells of the death of Britten—it is the funeral bell. It continues to be struck in groups of three widely spaced intervals for most of the piece, fading out for a time in the last 21 bars, only to reappear at the last.
After the bell has struck there is a brief pause for three beats of silence, and then the first violins begin setting the pattern which the rest of the ensemble will follow at slower speeds. Half of the first violins begin playing the descending A minor scale, playing first one note from the very top of their range, then returning to the beginning and playing two notes, and then three and four and so on.
The other half of the violins play notes from an A minor chord. These notes start a fourth lower and drop in pitch only when it is overrun by the first. This creates a swirling effect of increasing tension which is relieved by dropping the note.
They begin playing very quietly pianississimo but gradually over the piece build up until they are playing very loudly fortississimo.
The second violins play exactly vritten same but an octave lower and at half the speed, which means they play 6 beats one bar of silence memlry begin, and appear to enter at the beginning of the second bar. Then the violaswhich are the only voice not doubled, join in at quarter speed and another octave lower, the cellos at one eighth, and finally britetn contrabasses as one sixteenth.
The basses are then playing each long note for 32 beats, and each short note for At bar 65 the first violins hit middle Cand when they do they cease playing the A minor scale and simply play C continuously until the end of the piece i. Eleven bars later the second violins hit a low A and play that continuously. Similarly the other voices gradually find the note that they have been seeking and once reached, they play it continuously until the end. The last to lock into place are the contrabasses which alight on a low A in bar At this stage the whole ensemble is playing an A minor chord very very loudly, and this continues for five bars, then on the second beat of the last bar they suddenly stop.
At that moment the bell is struck very quietly pianissimo so that the striking itself is not heard, but only the reverberations as it dies away. As the final bell toll reverberates, with all other instruments silent, the overtones of the bell become prominently audible — in particular, the fourth overtone [ citation needed ] fifth partialwhich is the note C-sharp, i. This creates a striking effect, as the entire piece is set in the key of A minorczntus that in the dying echoes of the final bell, the last thing the listener hears is actually an A major chord contained within the partt of mfmory bell.
This evokes the common Renaissance and Baroque technique called the ” Picardy third “, in which a piece set in a minor mode or key nonetheless ends on a major chord, evoking a ray of light piercing through the clouds, and suggesting hope, resurrection, or redemption. Here, however, the effect is subtle, because it arises solely from the overtones of a single strike of memoty bell, rather than from separate instruments or voices. The piece is a meditation on death.
This silence creates a frame around the piece and has spiritual significance. It suggests that we come from silence, and return to silence; it reminds us that before we were born and after we die we are silent pwrt respect to this world.
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