In Saturday’s (6/6) Wall Street Journal, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes, “In the world of contemporary art music, Arvo Pärt cuts a perplexing figure. Devout, media shy and reclusive, he is also one of the most commercially successful composers alive. The 74-year-old Estonian’s unique style of minimalism, influenced by Russian Orthodox mysticism and early Western polyphony, has been featured in more than 50 films. … Mr. Pärt found a way out of the modernist impasse, one that eschews the alienating experiments of serialism without clinging to 19th-century models of tonality. With his ‘Tabula Rasa’ (1977) for two solo violins, prepared piano and orchestra, he presented his alternative: a blank slate, charged with emotion even in the absence of any event. Over 30 years later the work continues to reveal itself as a masterpiece. … If ‘Tabula Rasa’ has a visual equivalent, it is in the color-block paintings of Mark Rothko, who once recommended that viewers stand inches from his paintings to instill a sense of awe and ‘transcendence of the individual.’ ”

Posted June 9, 2009