Dear Arvo Pärt,

Your music imposes silence and the disturbance of time. The absence of
landmark that engages a throbbing round in itself, an epic sometimes
medieval, sometimes antique, an inner song that buzzes in our
memory: listening to you, to take up Baudelaire’s verse, I have
more memories than if I were a thousand years old.”

The philosopher Henry David Thoreau, wrote these lines in his Journal
which correspond to you in a disturbing way: The life of a man
should be a solemn march to the sound of exquisite music, but
secret. When it seems to others disorderly and discordant, it is
he walks faster or his ear more delicate
trains him in a thousand symphonies and variations. No rest ever, except at the
end of the stage, or one of those breaks that are richer than all the
sounds, when the melody plunges to depths so strange that it is not
more perceptible, more than just abandonment on the threshold of being and life.”

Dear Arvo Pärt, you are today the most living composer
recorded in the world, and certainly one of the most beloved. Because your
music defies time, fashions, far from the bidding of complexity, to
benefit from silence, withdrawal and humility, in search of fullness
lost.

In your native Estonia, which fell under Stalinist rule, you continue
music studies in Tallinn, where you will meet the composer Heino
Eller, who will have a founding influence on your relationship to composition.
Even before you receive your conservatory award, the diet honors you
an official award for your cantata «Our garden», composed in 1959,
in a still traditional style, and for «The progress of the world». But
you have to earn a living, and you become a sound engineer on national radio
for ten years, when you will soon be recognized for your great
composer talent since you are overwhelmed with commands of
music for radio, television and cinema, as was
Shostakovich, composer whose influence is reflected in your
first works.

How tempting it is, for the young composer you are, to
turn west, and eat the forbidden fruit of serialism.
You compose Nekrolog, dedicated to victims of fascism, or
Symphony No. 1, known as Polyphonic. You will also discover the
random music, musical collages at the same time as Berio, him
also, a few thousand kilometers away, glue the music
today and yesterday in his Milanese laboratory. You report in
one of your rare interviews that this fruit seemed sweeter than it
But we are in the Estonia of the Soviet Union,
and the regime makes you pay for this «bourgeois faux pas» by putting an end
to any recognition towards you, going so far as to prohibit your works
like your Creed.

Then comes the time of penance and the creative crisis, which you
brings closer to the great masters of yesteryear, French or French-Flemish,
like Machaut, Ockeghem, Dufay, also reconnecting with the singing
Gregorian, plain chant, harmonic writing. At that time,
remember, I was very impressed by the melodic force, the clarity
harmonic and polyphonic precision of this music. One has,
ever since, never again found in the music a concentration
According to your deep faith, your song,
will find refuge in silence, in the power of the isolated note,
in the echoes that become a full-fledged instrument of your
music, at the service of a space and a time without constraints.

After leaving Estonia with your wife Nora for Vienna then
West Berlin where you have been living since then, you are finally back to the public in the
Symphony no. 3 with what could be called essentials, like
perfect harmony, melodies built with one voice, sometimes
two, a sober tonal language, in a postmodern revisitation. From
when, your music lets all the harmonics that the
compose, as in your Miserere, where each note seeks to
suffice.

Sometimes the vertigo of the modulation occurs, as if by surprise or by
accident, enhanced by a melodic fullness and simplicity
medieval accents. Your hypnotic pieces lead the listener, I you
quotes, in the “direction of depth, centre, meaning”, by their
spiral constructions, borrowing from ancient rhythms and
oriental ranges. Some associate you hastily with the school of
the repetition» to which your contemporaries Steve Reich and Philipp Glass
belong. But these words of Milan Kundera in the Book of Laughter and
forgetfulness grasp your difference: Dancing in a round is magical;
the round speaks to us from the depths of millennia of memory».

In a call to eternity, your tintinnabulum seeks balance
perfect harmonic, difficult dosage of simplicity and unexpected, the
light of melodic stripping. Thus a series of masterpieces are born
first instrumental, including Für Alina, a piece for piano that
Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten, Fratres, Tabula Rasa,
Spiegel im Spiegel, sometimes rewritten about fifteen times until found
their balance in this new clean aesthetic orientation. The
instruments put themselves at the service of the only breath, the whisper, the
bumble. Then you draw from Christian prayers and your faith
as in your De Profundis,
Missa Sillabica, Te Deum, or Magnificat. Euphony seems cultivated
for itself», writes the French composer Karol Beffa.

Your collaboration with the German label ECM and its director
Manfred Eicher opens the doors to global success. Defended by
violinist Gidon Kremer, composer Alfred Schnittke, conductor
orchestra Dennis Russell Davies or pianist Keith Jarrett,
your minimal music with accents reminiscent of Erik Satie - including you
claim the filiation - fills from the concert halls
and contributes to opening up, through its unique seduction, the
contemporary music to a very large audience, also influencing
a whole new generation of composers in depth.

I can only rejoice at the fact that the French public comes to discover
or rediscover your work at the «Estonian Tonic» festival,
born of our joint initiative, the Estonian Minister of Culture and myself,
Tallinn is the European Capital of Culture.

It is therefore with joy, dear Arvo Pärt, that we give you the
Knight of the Legion of Honour badges.