Composers Datebook®

Arvo Part's "Brothers" in Salzburg

Composer's Datebook - Aug. 17, 2023


In 1980, the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt emigrated from his Soviet-controlled homeland and settled in Austria. Since the 1960’s, Pärt’s increasingly spiritual and overtly religious music, imbued with mystical and contemplative rituals of the Russian Orthodox Church, did not sit well with the communist authorities, and Pärt found it increasing hard to live and work in Estonia.

On today’s date in 1980, at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, another Baltic artist, the Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, gave the premiere performance of a new violin-piano arrangement of Part’s Fratres, or Brothers—an instrumental work from 1977 that Pärt subsequently rescored for a variety of ensembles.

In the version commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, the original harmonic material resides in the serene piano part, while the violin plays virtuosic variations above it. That serenity is the result of Pärt’s effort to—as he put it— “learn to walk again as a composer.” He came up with a term, tintinnabulation, for the simplicity and directness of expression he sought.

“Tintinnabulation is like this,” writes Pärt. “I am alone with silence. I work with very few elements… The three notes of the triad are like bells. And that is why I called it tintinnabulation.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) Fratres Gidon Kremer, vn;Keith Jarrett, p. ECM 1275

On This Day


  • 1903 - American composer and pianist Abram Chasins, in New York City;

  • 1928 - American composer T.J. (Thomas Jefferson) Anderson, in Coatesville, Pa.;

  • 1943 - English composer Edward Cowie, in Birmingham;


  • 1786 - Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, flute player and amateur composer, age 74, in Potsdam;

  • 1958 - French composer Florent Schmitt, age 87, in Neuilly-sur-Seine;

  • 1961 - French-born American composer and harpist Carlos Salzedo, age 76, in Waterville, Maine;

  • 1973 - French composer Jean Barraque, in Paris;

  • 1981 - American composer Robert Russell Bennett, age 87, in New York City;

  • 1983 - American lyricist Ira Gershwin, age 86, in Beverly Hills, Calif.;


  • 1876 - First complete performance of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle concludes at Bayreuth with a performance of "Götterdämmerung" (The Twilight of the Gods);

  • 1937 - John Ireland: "A London Overture" at a Proms Concert conducted by Sir Henry Wood;

  • 1946 - Honegger: "Symphonie Liturgique" (No. 3) in Zürich, conducted by Charles Munch, to whom the work is dedicated;

  • 1953 - von Einem: opera "Der Prozess" (The Trial), at the Salzburg Festival in Austria; This opera is based on the novel by Franz Kafka;

  • 1955 - Werner Egk: opera "Irische Legende" (Irish Legend), at the Salzburg Festival in Austria;

  • 1974 - Penderecki: "Magnificat," for bass solo, chorus, and orchestra, in Salzburg, Austria;


  • 1928 - Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg wins $10,000 Schubert Centenary Prize offered by Columbia Phonograph Company of New York for his Symphony in C;

  • 1957 - During lecture at the Tanglewood Festival, American composer Gunther Schuller coins the phrase "third stream" to describe a type of composition in which elements of jazz are organized within a classical musical structure.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®