Happy Birthday Arvo Pärt


What could be a better way to celebrate the esteemed Estonian’s birthday than a listen to one of his most mystical works?

My Heart’s In The Highlands is a piece for alto voice and organ. What strikes me most, besides the impossible voice in the recording below, is the impossible scale of the vocal line. It’s almost like there are two timescales in play. The voice almost moves in slow motion when compared to the accompaniment figures and if you let yourself get caught by it I worry that you might be irreparably wounded.

It’s also an excellent study in the composer’s tintinnabuli style that catapulted him to fame (Fur Alina for solo piano is said to be his first work in the style). Essentially – with tintinnabulation – the music can almost always be simplified to two voices. Paul Hillier, arguably the world’s leading authority on the composer’s works, proposed referring to them as the T-voice and the M-voice. The T-voice always moves in stepwise motion and the m-voice in arpeggiated figures.

In My Heart’s In The Highlands, the composer has given the vocal soloist the M-voice while the organ plays an ornamented version of the T-voice.

Give it a listen!