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Tribute to Caesar: Arvo Pärt by myamphigory
February 2, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: music

Link to streaming audio of Tribute to Caesar.

Lyrics (Matthew 22:15-22)
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said: Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute of money.
And they brought unto him a penny.
And he saith unto them: Whose is this image and superscription?
They said unto him: Caesar’s.
Then he saith unto them: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.
When they had heard these words, they marvelled and left him, and went on their way.

Note the voicing: the words of the Pharisees are sung with a brighter tone that emphasizes the dissonant notes, while the words of Jesus are sung by the bass with sustained chords in the treble voices in the background–reminiscent of the “halo” of strings that accompanies Jesus’s words in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

Arvo Pärt (b. 1935), composer, was born in Estonia and now resides in Berlin. As a young man, Pärt earned the ire of Soviet authorities for his experiments in twelve-tone composition. Subsequently, he immersed himself in the study of Renaissance music (and, subsequently, of early liturgical music and plainsong). Pärt’s signature compositional style (“tintinnabulism”), which is minimalistic and strongly influenced by chant, arose from these studies. His most famous work in this style is probably Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten, though I would also recommend his Bogoroditse Dyevo and the Seven Magnificat-Antiphonen.

Bogoroditse Dyevo

“O Weisheit”–the final antiphon of the 7 Magnificat-Antiphonen

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