Arvo Pärt’s “Pari intervallo”: Geometry Unfolding in Time

Musical lines evoke strict geometry in Arvo Pärt’s brief but cosmic meditation, Pari intervallo (Latin for “in the equal distance”).

Throughout the piece, two parallel voices seem to drift quietly into infinity. A continuous and inevitable process unfolds which gives rise to occasional unexpected but delicious harmonic dissonances. In the score, Pärt inscribed a quote from Romans 14:8: “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.”

Completed in 1976, this was one of the first pieces to be written following Pärt’s eight years of compositional silence. During this period, the Estonian composer abandoned the atonal vocabulary of his earlier works. The new music which emerged was rooted in the meditative, mystical sounds of early polyphony. Pärt’s compositional style, called Tintinnabuli (from the Latin tintinnabulum, “a bell”) is built on the sanctity of pure sound and harmony.

Originally, Pari intervallo was released in four parts with unspecified instrumentation. In 1980, Pärt set the music for organ. Here is a performance featuring Lorenzo Ghielmi:

Arvo Pärt adapted this music for other combinations of instruments, including four recorders (1980), clarinet, trombone and string orchestra (1995), saxophone quartet (2002). Let’s listen to the 2008 setting for two pianos, performed by Khatia Buniatishvili and Gvantsa Buniatishvili. The music takes on a contemplative new character in this incarnation:

Recordings

  • Pärt: Pari intervallo (version for organ), Lorenzo Ghielmi Amazon
  • Pärt: Pari intervallo (version for two pianos), Khatia Buniatishvili, Gvantsa Buniatishvili Amazon

Featured Image: the Chicago Federal Center, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (photograph by Garrett Rock) 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.