Jon Lee


Pärt Mozart-Adagio

Score Map

Source: Universal Edition (rev. 2005)
Measures of Adagio from Mozart's Sonata in F major, K. 280/189e are highlighted.

Program Notes

Arvo Pärt’s Mozart-Adagio was written in 1992 as a commission by the Helsinski Festival, and premiered by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. Written in memory of Russian violinist Oleg Kagan, who had a special affinity to Mozart, Pärt memorialized his friend with a transcription of one of Mozart’s most poignant sonata movements, the Adagio from his Sonata in F major, K. 280/189e.

Initially a member of the Soviet musical avant-garde, Pärt wrote works which Soviet authorities condemned as “avant-garde bourgeois music”. He withdrew from the public and spent the following eight years studying Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. When he reemerged he left the world of atonal and serial music behind and found a new style he coined “tintinnabuli”, Latin for bells.

Pärt evolves his tintinnabuli style to pay respect to the Adagio, and elevates this pairing of 18th and 20th century music to something more transcendent and spiritual. Cited in its entirety, Mozart’s Adagio leads the procession, but is passed among the players. The others then provide ongoing commentary, oftening highlighting the dissonant minor second interval which is used motivically in the original. That interval lends a sense of poignancy and deep sadness to a piece that is already in the mournful, funereal key of f minor.

In addition to the commentary, Pärt inserts a short introduction, interlude, and coda. The strings start the movement with three intervals that establish the sound world of f minor, with increasing dissonance and tension, before retreating and clearing the way for the piano to begin citing Mozart’s work.

There are two known revisions to the original score, the latest of which was done in 2005. Noticeably Pärt removes a lot of dynamic markings, creating more room for open interpretation.


Trio Fibonacci (7:02)

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