Glasgow's Minimal initiative to celebrate Estonian composer Arvo Pärt

Glasgow's Minimal initiative to celebrate Estonian composer Arvo Pärt

Part's Stabat Mater and Passio will be conducted by Paul Hillier

Now entering its third year, Glasgow Music’s groundbreaking Minimal initiative brings a weekend of music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt to City Halls and Kelvingrove. His Stabat Mater will be heard one night, with Passio, a setting of the St John Passion, the next. ‘We started Minimal with absolutely bang down the middle minimalist composers like Philip Glass, then gradually extended so that in March we included Dutch composers such as Louis Andriessen and more obscure Americans,’ says Svend Brown, Glasgow Music’s artistic director. ‘This season there will be two weekends – there’s Steve Reich in March, and as we also want to programme the opposite extreme, there is no one more appropriate than Arvo Pärt.’

Well known and popular, Pärt writes in a way where the pared down characteristic of his music fits the minimal label, reaching back to the style of ancient chants of deep spirituality. ‘It’s music that’s not difficult to approach,’ says Brown, ‘but it can be challenging to listen to.’

The performers are a particularly special feature. ‘It has been a long-held dream of mine to invite Paul Hillier to Glasgow. His relationship with the composer is over 30 years and many pieces have been written for him,’ he says. ‘It means you’re getting really authentic performances.’ The two groups Hillier leads are Theatre of Voices, an ensemble he founded in 1990, and Danish vocal ensemble Ars Nova Copenhagen. ‘They sing two completely contrasting versions of the same story,’ says Brown. ‘The Stabat Mater is warm and lyrical, while Passio is like it’s carved from granite.’

As Brown contemplates the November weekend of Pärt, while also looking ahead to Reich in March, he says, ‘We are aiming to give a really, really intense blast of both composers, while being very much about two faces of each one.’

City Halls, Glasgow, Sat 27 Oct; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Sun 28 Oct.

Arvo Pärt, Stabat Mater (The Hilliard Ensemble)

Theatre of Voices & Ars Nova Copenhagen: Stabat Mater

Sometimes it's hard to believe that Arvo Pärt is still alive and still composing; his work sounds like it's older than nearly everything else. Stabat Mater was written for three singers and three instruments and is played here with a variety of the composer's smaller works. Paul Hillier directs.

Theatre of Voices: Passio

Arvo Pärt's Passio, or to give it its full title Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John) is one of his most celebrated works. Paul Hillier as director brings years of experience of working with the composer.