De Profundis

December 30, 2010.

One of the highlights of this year for me has definitely been meeting Arvo Pärt, not only once but three times. I have already written about the first of these meetings on this blog as well as elsewhere on www.sdgmusic.org; the second and third happened in Paris in November, when Pärt came to the French capital for the first performance of his new work Silhouette with the Orchestre de Paris under Paavo Järvi, then again for the French première of his Fourth Symphony, played by the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris under Olari Elts. I had the privilege not only of spending two days with the composer but also of giving a pre-concert lecture organized by Musique Nouvelle en Liberté which you can find (in French) by clicking here:

The two performances of Pärt’s Symphony were unforgettable occasions, but today my memory of them is distinctly bittersweet, given the news that the work’s dedicatee Mikhail Khodorkovsky has just been sentenced to a further six years in prison by a Moscow court that Pärt himself attended in November 2009.

This is not the place for me to express any kind of opinion regarding the details of the case (although I would be more than willing to share my views with anyone who may wish to contact me privately, and anyone who cares to read my French essay or ‘Arvo Pärt at 75′ will soon discover what I think). As sobering food for thought I would simply like to provide a few links documenting the position of Arvo Pärt and other artists including Gidon Kremer which the any readers concerned with issues of human rights might like to consult:

‘Reaching out a hand – a musical plea’ : concert in support of political prisoners at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, October 29, 2009 including the German première of Pärt’s Symphony n.4 and Giya Kancheli’s Silent Prayer

Pärt’s statement ‘David and Goliath’, August 2010

The ‘Berlin Declaration’ signed by Arvo/Nora Pärt, Gidon Kremer

Arvo Pärt signing a giant domino in support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Leipzig Gewandhaus, October 2009

I will refrain from comment at this point, other than to quote Gidon Kremer’s appeal to Psalm 130 accompanying the CD De Profundis, released in September 2010 and dedicated to Khodorkovsky together with ‘all those who refuse to be silenced’ (Kremer’s full statement can be read here):

‘”Out of the depths I cry to you.” Countless poets and musicians have used these timeless words from Psalm 130. I feel they are especially urgent in our time, when the world is afflicted with greed, corruption, and false prophets.  Today, oil is a highly desirable commodity. It is a hidden substance extracted from the depths of the Earth. Music is likewise a fuel. Fuel for the soul. Far more precious than oil, it is felt in the impenetrable depths of our conscious. Can oil and music mix? In a positive sense, both are sources of energy that can serve the people.

But in today’s world, oil is also used to sustain tyrannical regimes, be it in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Myanmar, or Russia. Despite painting themselves as advocates of democracy, their rulers engage in a Soviet-style suppression of free speech, the show trials, and presumption of guilt. In these Orwellian states, everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Drunk on oil, the worshippers of the golden calf seek to silence opposition and build walls between peoples and states. Contrary to that, we, the worshippers of Art, believe it is our duty to build bridges and to stand up in support of those who are trying to establish a more democratic society, those who are fighting for transparency and truth.’ (Gidon Kremer, March 2010)

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