To mark Arvo Pärt’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Istanbul Music Festival, a new work was premiered at a concert featuring highlights from the composer’s career: Adam’s Lament for choir and orchestra. The piece was co-commissioned by the European Capitals of Culture for 2010 and 2011, Istanbul and Tallin respectively.
Arvo Pärt has been fascinated by the life and work of St Silouan of Athos (1866–1938) for many years. As early as 1991, the writings of Silouan inspired Pärt to his composition Silouan’s Song, ‘My soul yearns after the Lord ...’ for string orchestra. Pärt’s new work Adam’s Lament is once again based on a text by Silouan, in which the monk laments Adam’s pain over the loss of paradise. Silouan’s sketches and writings are of great poetic power, and represent some of the most significant works in Russian poetry. The content and structure of the texts, which are sung in Russian, dictate the course of the music down to the smallest detail. Punctuation, syllable counts and word emphases all play decisive roles in the composition.
“For me, the name Adam is a collective term not merely for the whole of humanity, but for each individual, regardless of time, era, social class or religious affiliation. And this collective Adam has suffered and lamented on this earth for millennia. Our ancestor Adam foresaw the human tragedy that was to come and experienced it as his own guilty responsibility, the result of his sinful act. He suffered all the cataclysms of humanity into the depths of desperation, inconsolable in his agony.” (Arvo Pärt)